The 32-15 Cleveland Cavaliers welcome the 19-29 Minnesota Timberwolves to town tonight in a clash between squads who are playing much differently than their records indicate right now (7pm ET Wednesday on ESPN). Cleveland has dropped seven of its last 11 games, while Minnesota is 8-3 in its 11 contests.
The Cavaliers are the defending champions, but it is still fair to question if their slide is worth worrying about. Without J.R. Smith and now Kevin Love, the team’s depth and rim protection is being tested. Those two problems could prove to be big issues come postseason time.
The Timberwolves are starting to play to their potential by pulling out close games and playing more consistently on the defensive end of the floor. Their stock arrow is definitely pointing up. This point may prove relevant when this preview comes to finalizing the betting predictions and picks for this matchup.
Can the Cavaliers’ Defense Stop the Timberwolves Before They Get to the Hoop?
The Timberwolves are a team of high-flyers. Guys like Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Shabazz Muhammad and Kris Dunn will go above the rim to finish on drives and will feast on teams who can’t challenge them in their above-the-rim exploits.
If Cleveland is the slightest bit lazy defending the perimeter, Minnesota will have a field day near the hoop. Tristan Thompson (pictured) is the Cavs’ best rim protector, but he is still not great at it. The Wolves will happily attack the rim if they turn the corner on drives.
That is why it will be key for the Cavs to stop the Wolves’ dribble penetration early, before they get within 15 feet of the rim or so. They have the personnel (LeBron James, Iman Shumpert and Deandre Liggins) to do so, but it is about effort and resolve. Those guys will need to be locked in for 48 minutes so they don’t put too much pressure on their big men inside.
Will Andrew Wiggins Continue His Strong Play Against LeBron and the Cavs?
The Cavaliers drafted Wiggins No. 1 in 2014, but opted for a win-now approach by trading him, Anthony Bennett and a future draft pick for Kevin Love. Unfortunately, Love can’t participate on Wednesday night, but Wiggins will get a fifth crack at the team that drafted him nearly three years ago.
Maybe it is because the franchise gave up on him before seeing him play a regular-season game, but something about the Cleveland matchup always seems to get the 21-year-old swingman going. In four games against the Cavs, Wiggins has averaged 28.8 points per game on a 56.8/58.8/72.4 shooting slash.
If he can put up numbers similar to that and play LeBron James close to a standstill, the Wolves could win tonight. However James could also take this matchup personally and up his intensity level to dominate the youngster.
Who Can Step Up As the Cavs’ Third Scorer?
Cleveland’s Kevin Love left Sunday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder with back spasms. He missed Monday’s contest against the Dallas Mavericks and will also be out against the Timberwolves.
The Cavs will definitely miss his offensive punch. LeBron James and Kyrie Irving average 25.6 and 24.4 points per game respectively, but next on the healthy roster is Channing Frye at 9.0 points per game. Cleveland is almost a lock to lose to Minnesota on Wednesday if its third-leading scorer has just nine points. That probably won’t happen, but it could.
Whether it is Frye, Kyle Korver, Iman Shumpert and Tristan Thompson, someone will need to chip in an efficient 15 to 20 points to give the Cavs’ two stars some help. Otherwise, the Minnesota defense can overload on James and Irving and make it difficult for Cleveland to score.
Our Preview’s Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Cleveland Cavaliers Betting Predictions & Picks
The Cavaliers lost to the 18-30 Dallas Mavericks on Monday, and should shape things up tonight. However, we have expected them to bounce back from several disappointing contests in their recent slide, and they haven’t done so.
Minnesota’s superior depth of offensive firepower with Love and J.R Smith out will make things difficult for LeBron and Kyrie, if not ultimately overcome them. So these are our predictions and betting picks for this game:
- The Cavaliers are favorite with the best online betting sites for U.S players in this matchup by seven points on the spread, but I expect the Timberwolves to cover. The best current option is to bet on Minnesota +7pts @ -110 with Bovada, 5Dimes or MyBookie online sportsbooks. It is -115 for the same spread with BetOnline.
- You’ll find 213 is the most prevalent over-under on the total points for today’s matchup. Combining the Cavs’ slumping offense and the Timberwolves’ surging defense, I think taking the under here is the smart play @ -105 with BetOnline. It is -110 with 5Dimes or MyBookie. Bovada has not posted odds for this option at the time of writing.