|Time||10 p.m. ET|
|Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.|
The late game on ESPN Wednesday night features a Western Conference clash between the Phoenix Suns and Minnesota Timberwolves. Both teams are firmly in the playoff picture with only two weeks of games on the schedule.
The Suns are currently in the No. 4 seed and have a 97% chance of making the playoffs, per the FiveThirtyEight projections. Five of their seven remaining games are at home as they have a record of 24-12 in home games this season.
The Timberwolves are currently the No. 7 seed as they have won four-straight games. They have a 90% chance of making the playoffs with the second-easiest schedule among the nine teams to avoid the play-in tournament.
With both teams fully healthy, this game should include a lot of fireworks. Let’s break it down to find a betting edge for this big Western Conference matchup.
Not only have the Timberwolves won four consecutive games, but they have done so beating very quality opponents — the Knicks, Hawks, Warriors and Kings. Three of those four games were also on the road and both Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards missed two games apiece during that stretch.
Both Towns and Edwards are probable for this matchup and it will be just the 23rd time the two suit up together this season. Edwards has been a stud in his third year in the league, averaging career-highs in points, rebounds, assists and shooting percentages. Towns, on the other hand, has been injured most of the season, but did hit a few huge 3-pointers in their win against the Warriors.
Having Towns and Edwards finally healthy makes this a dangerous team. Don’t forget about the acquisition to add veteran point guard Mike Conley either. In the month of March, the Timberwolves are tied for second in the league in assist ratio, behind only the Denver Nuggets. Conley seems to always make the right play and is also shooting a career-high 41.6% from downtown.
We haven’t seen much of the Rudy Gobert and Towns frontcourt, but pairing them with Jaden McDaniels makes this a massive starting unit. Over the last six games, Gobert is averaging a double-double with 14.8 points and 14 rebounds per game. A healthy team is a scary team and that is what the Timberwolves are heading into this game tonight with big playoff implications.
As underdogs, the Timberwolves cover the spread at a 58.5% clip. This spread has moved from -5 to -6 as of this writing, with 79% of the bets on the Suns. The public is envisioning a let down from the Timberwolves, but I wouldn’t be so sure about that. This team has the depth and talent to make life difficult for the Suns, even though they are getting back perennial superstar Kevin Durant.
Durant has only played three games with the Suns. He sat out from early January to early March and hasn’t played in a game since March 5th due to a different injury. It is difficult to project Durant’s minutes tonight, but getting him healthy for the stretch run is what the doctor ordered.
With Durant sidelined, Devin Booker has continued his ascend as an elite scorer. During this month, Booker is averaging 32.7 points per game while shooting 56.5% from the field and 43.3% from downtown. He has five assists in four-straight games while also contributing in the rebound department.
Deandre Ayton has also stepped up without Durant as he has been a steady producer scoring the ball and on the glass. Ayton is averaging a double-double for the fifth consecutive year, but he will have his hands full with the Towns and Gobert frontcourt. In two games against the Timberwolves this season, Ayton is averaging 10 points per game while shooting an abysmal 32% from the field.
This could be one of the last chances for the veteran point guard Chris Paul to hoist a championship trophy. He has really taken a step back scoring the ball as he is averaging a career-low 13.6 points per game, but makes up for it with 9.1 assists a night. Playing alongside Booker and Durant, all he has to do is pass.
The Timberwolves rank 11th in Defensive Rating (113.2) this season as they have several really good on-ball defenders. This matchup is a contrast of tempo as the Timberwolves rank fifth in Pace, while the Suns rank 20th. Losers of six of their last nine games, the Suns are in danger of dropping another game and falling down the Western Conference standings.
Durant was hurt in warmups before his home debut in early March, but barring another freak injury, Durant will start in his first game at home for the Suns. It would be fitting for the Timberwolves to spoil Durant’s homecoming.
The Suns did win all three road games that Durant played in, but I smell an upset by the Timberwolves, or at least they play well enough to cover this spread. The Timberwolves are fully healthy and have a great mixture of veterans and young talent that are clicking at the right time.
I would take the Timberwolves at +6 with a sprinkle on the moneyline at +200. Take the Timberwolves down to +4 with Towns and Edwards probable to play.
If you are looking at a future, I’m buying this Timberwolves team. They are currently +4500 to win the Western Conference. This conference is a juggernaut, but it is also wide open and I think they can make a run at the title.
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