Positioned in the middle of their respective NBA conferences, the 3-3 Minnesota Timberwolves visit the 2-3 Miami Heat today (7:30pm ET Monday).
Minnesota’s defense has struggled immensely in the early going. However, it has been much better in the games Jimmy Butler has played, and he is getting back to full strength from his upper respiratory infection of last week.
Miami has struggled since losing Hassan Whiteside to a bone bruise on his knee, beating two weaker teams (the Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks) before falling to the San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics.
Which squad will win this inter-conference contest? A few X-factors stand out, and we’ll review those. Then, we’ll make some predictions and betting picks for the game’s outcome from a betting standpoint.
Will the Timberwolves Ever Find a Defensive Groove?
Minnesota ranks last in the NBA in defensive efficiency. This is completely unacceptable, given the athleticism they have and the presence of defensive mastermind Tom Thibodeau as their head coach. Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson are steady veterans who excel on that end of the floor.
The Timberwolves were especially bad in the games Butler sat out due to an upper respiratory infection and now he is back. However, one person can’t change a culture of bad defense on his own.
The biggest problems right now are Jeff Teague, Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. None offer the proper effort or attention to detail required to be impactful defensive players in the NBA. It’s unreasonable to expect them to become plus defenders overnight, but can they at least show some interest in stopping the opposition?
Will the Heat Be More Aggressive Around the Rim?
Admittedly, this is an area in which the Heat would be much stronger if Hassan Whiteside were healthy. However, without him, Miami does not have physically imposing bigs or relentless slashers who get to the free-throw line at will. The Heat offense could be much better if it forced opponents into foul trouble and were more of a threat at the rim.
Minnesota’s weak defense has been known to allow dribble penetration and protect the rim poorly. Miami can’t settle for jump shots, like it has much of this early season.
It’s not like the Heat are lacking the athletes to put pressure on the airways near the rim. Dion Waiters, Josh Richardson, James Johnson, Tyler Johnson and Justise Winslow all have good explosiveness and need to test Karl-Anthony Towns and the other Wolves defenders near the rim.
Who is the Heat’s Answer for Karl-Anthony Towns?
Towns’ defense needs a whole bunch of work. The young center’s offensive game and rebounding, meanwhile, have come along quite well.
Without Whiteside, there’s a gaping hole at the center position for the Heat. Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra is looking at James Johnson, Kelly Olynyk and rookie Bam Adebayo as his best options to guard Towns. Johnson has a major length disadvantage against Towns, Olynyk has an athleticism disadvantage and Adebayo just doesn’t have much experience against players of Towns’ caliber.
We will see if Miami can keep Towns from getting his averages of 25 points and 12 rebounds per game.
Our Preview’s Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Miami Heat Betting Predictions & Picks
The Timberwolves are a better team than the Heat minus Hassan Whiteside and Rodney McGruder. That shouldn’t be debatable. While this may be foolish, I find myself being optimistic about the Timberwolves’ ability to improve their defense as the season wears on.
With Jimmy Butler recovering from his sickness, I think Minnesota has a chance to put forth its best defensive performance of the season. So this previews betting picks and predictions look like this:
- The Timberwolves are 2.5 to 3-point road favorites with the biggest U.S. sportsbooks. Go with the best odds of Timberwolves -2.5pts @ -110 with Bookmaker or MyBookie.
- The Heat are one of the league’s less potent offensive teams, and I don’t see them thrashing the Wolves’ defense with Butler. Minnesota has had some trouble on that end versus Oklahoma City, but they have a star trio on the offensive end. Miami is Goran Dragic and a bunch of role players on offense. You should bet the under 216.5 @ -110 with 5Dimes.