After a promising first half of the season, the 43-33 Minnesota Timberwolves have plateaued and are in danger of missing the playoffs for the 14th straight year. They would be greatly helped if they can get a win today against the 23-52 Dallas Mavericks (8.30 p.m. ET Friday).
Minnesota has gone 14-17 since January 14 and much of that mediocrity is due to the loss of star swingman Jimmy Butler, who has been sidelined for a month and a half due to a knee injury. The Timberwolves were not a deep team anyway, but now they have a very shallow roster and head coach Tom Thibodeau doesn’t help matters by playing his starters extremely high minutes.
The Mavericks look like they are headed toward a top-five draft pick this year. The squad’s roster is just not very talented and the frontcourt is especially overwhelming. Rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. has been the Mavs’ main event this season, even though his actual on-court impact has been up and down.
Who will win this contest of teams far apart in the Western Conference standings? Read on for insight on this game’s burning questions then we will identify our preview’s Wolves vs Mavs predictions and betting picks.
Is Dennis Smith’s Three-Point Shooting Binge For Real?
In today’s NBA, point guards who can pull up for three-pointers off screens are extremely valuable. They force defenders to go over picks and open up space for drives and other ball movement.
Smith has not shot well this season. Up until four games ago, the rookie floor general was averaging one made three-pointer for every 20.1 minutes of court time at a poor 30.4 percent clip. In his last four games that has improved to one three-pointer for every 9.4 minutes on 45.8 percent accuracy.
Smith’s shooting form has always been nice, but it appears his production is starting to catch up with his technique. If the hot shooting continues, he will be very tough for the Wolves’ perimeter defenders to check because of his combination of shooting and electrifying athleticism.
Can Nerlens Noel Put Up Any Sort of Fight Against Karl-Anthony Towns?
Towns exploded for a career-high 56 points to go with 15 rebounds and four assists against the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday. He has consistently been a problem for teams with relatively weak frontcourts with his unmatched combination of size, speed, strength and skill on offense and the glass.
Dallas has hardly anyone on its roster who will challenge Towns. Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Powell, Maxi Kleber and Jonathan Motley all have various weaknesses against Minnesota’s young superstar big.
Noel, however, is the one guy with the defensive chops remotely necessary to limit Towns. He is long, mobile and knows how to use both of those attributes when he is locked in. Rick Carlisle has been conservative bringing him back from his thumb injury and had some issues with Noel’s effort earlier on in the season, but Noel is his best option for Thursday on Towns.
Will Noel get the necessary minutes on Towns to prove himself, and will he do just that?
Will Minnesota Control Turnover Battle?
Neither the Mavs nor the Wolves are very careless with the ball. They are both top-three teams in terms of lowest turnover rate in the league.
However, Minnesota is also good at stealing the ball from the opponent, unlike Dallas. The Wolves’ opponent turnover rate ranks sixth in the NBA. Dallas is a mediocre 15th.
The Wolves have a depth disadvantage with their current roster. Head coach Tom Thibodeau continues to play his starters very high minutes while only giving key minutes to a few reserves. Meanwhile, Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle is seeing who his key contributors down the line can be and is playing a wide variety of reserves. Many of them are unproven NBA players who give all-out effort to show their worth.
If Minnesota can get its points off turnovers in an easy fashion, the team won’t have to expend energy scoring against a set Dallas defense. That should be key for this thin Wolves rotation.
Our Preview’s Minnesota Timberwolves at Dallas Mavericks Betting Picks & Predictions
Minnesota needs this win badly, and Dallas only needs to show some fight here. However, the Wolves have been absolutely wretched on the road as of late (15 losses in their last 19 away games since January started) and have lost many road games against bad games in that stretch.
The Mavericks are known for staying very close in many games this season before losing in the last minute or two. When it comes to this games predictions, I like their odds to lose by a very slim margin.
- The Timberwolves are a 5 or 5.5-points favorite from the key betting websites on the spread. Our pick is to place your bets on the Mavericks +5pts @ betting odds of -110 with Bovada, 5Dimes or Bookmaker.
- These are two low turnover teams who play at a slow pace. Since this game will be close, I expect both squads to be patient on the offensive end to get good shots. So for the total points in the game, this Wolves at Mavs preview recommends siding with the under 217pts @ -110 with Bovada.