The seasons of the 16-40 Minnesota Timberwolves and 36-21 Miami Heat this year are good reminders that the NBA regular season is long and can feature many twists and turns.
Minnesota started 7-4 and has since won just nine of its last 45 games. The Wolves overhauled their roster at the trade deadline, bringing in players such as D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and James Johnson while losing Jeff Teague, Andrew Wiggins and Gorgui Dieng. Star center Karl-Anthony Towns has missed 21 games with wrist and knee injuries since Minnesota’s hot start.
Miami has also hit a rough patch. The Heat have lost six of their last eight games and are 12-13 overall since January 9 after a 27-10 start. Injuries to key players have hurt recently, but deadline acquisitions Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala have also failed to lift the team as much as it would have hoped.
The two squads will meet in Miami today (7:30 p.m. ET Wednesday). This will the Heat’s second home game since February 3. How will it play out on the court and with the top legal USA oddsmakers? Let’s break it down before giving the Minnesota Timberwolves vs Miami Heat predictions for this preview.
Can Miami Start to Win the Free Throw Battle Again?
The Heat have spent most of the year using the free-throw line to their advantage. The squad ranks first in the league in free-throw rate (0.296), while its opponent free-throw rate is just 26.9.
In Miami’s last six games, the team is losing the free-throw line battle, however. The Heat’s free-throw rate is just 23.6 in that span, compared to 33.4 for their opponents. Having star swingman Jimmy Butler out for a few of those games doesn’t help, but even he has been less effective at getting to the line as of late. Butler is questionable for this game due to personal reasons.
Against a younger, weaker defensive team like the Wolves, Miami must stay in attack mode to find rhythm at the free-throw line and get Minnesota in foul trouble early on. That could also result in the Wolves having trouble finding offensive flow and transition opportunities, since it is rare for teams to get easy points going the other way after free throws.
Does James Johnson Have a Revenge Game in Him?
Johnson had an interesting three-and-a-half year tenure in Miami. The hard-nosed forward had a very good first season in Miami that earned him a big contract of four years and $60 million in the summer of 2017. He then had some good moments with the team, but he also played inconsistently on the court and had moments of conflict with the organization. There was an 18-game stretch this season where he didn’t play a single minute.
The Heat traded him to the Timberwolves at the trade deadline and he has been very solid for Minnesota so far. His averages are 11.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.7 blocks in 25.3 minutes per game.
Johnson has a strong-willed personality and can play really hard when he is motivated. If the 33-year-old veteran takes his trade from Miami as fuel, the Heat could have their hands full trying to match the energy of Johnson.
Will Wolves Prioritize Hitting Outside Shots Early On?
With Karl-Anthony Towns out for the Timberwolves, three-point shooting becomes a much bigger X-factor for the team. The lack of Towns’ inside presence means Minnesota will likely have trouble scoring inside and rebounding. If Minnesota is going to win this contest, the team needs to jack up plenty of shots from outside from the outset of this game.
The Heat’s perimeter defense has definitely slipped recently. Prior to February 5, Miami opponents hit an average of 12.2 threes per game on an average percentage of 32.8, which was the best percentage in the NBA. In eight games since then, Miami is letting opponents make 16.3 threes per game on 40.9 percent shooting from downtown. Those numbers rank worst and fourth-worst in the NBA in that span, respectively.
Minnesota’s only real path to victory on the road in this contest is making an insane amount of threes. In fact, the Wolves’ only win since January 9 was a 142-115 shellacking of the Los Angeles Clippers in which the team drained a franchise record 26 three-pointers.
Our Preview’s Minnesota Timberwolves vs Miami Heat Betting Picks & Predictions
While the Heat should win this game, the Wolves have found ways to be pesky and stay in games throughout their current streak of 18 losses in 19 games. Minnesota is very good at keeping games within 10 to 12 points even against teams that have much more talent. The Wolves have a lot of unproven guys who play hard even when the game is out of reach in order to show they deserve a permanent NBA role. James Johnson should lead a strong Minnesota effort in this contest.
The Heat are struggling a bit and are in a state of flux as they play without Tyler Herro and Meyers Leonard but are still trying to integrate Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala. They are definitely vulnerable. These are our Minnesota Timberwolves vs Miami Heat predictions for today’s NBA battle:
- The Heat are favored by 10 points on the spread. I would suggest betting on the Timberwolves +10pts @ -110 with Bovada.
- I see the Timberwolves jacking threes about as quickly as they can in this game, hitting a good amount of them. I also see the Heat scoring somewhat easily on the other end. Bet the over 228.5pts @ -110 with Bovada.