NBA Pick ATS December 22: Minnesota Timberwolves at Los Angeles Clippers
The Pick:Timberwolves 103-99
This figures to be a high-scoring game, so the fact that you are giving me points to take the team with the most versatile scorer makes the Timberwolves my pick of the day. These two teams squared off twice this season, with the Clippers winning both games, but only by a total of six points. Both of those games featured a healthy J.J. Redick and a struggling Kevin Love, neither of whom are likely to be 100 percent tonight.
Redick is still sidelined with a hand injury and Love, who is 12-of-33 from the field for 33 points in those two games, simply doesn’t struggle in that fashion very often. Also, neither of those first two meetings came as the second night of a back-to-back for Lob City, which will be the case tonight after a dominating effort in Denver last night.
At full strength, I feel the Clippers are the better team, but that’s not the question at hand. On the interior, we’ve got Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan opposing Love and Nikola Pekovic, a matchup that favors the road team. Yes, the Clippers’ duo has more posters hanging up in bedrooms across the United States, but the Timberwolves’ starters are much more reliable when it comes to scoring (38.6 percent more points per game) and are more than capable of battling on the boards.
In the backcourt, the talent gap favoring the Clippers isn’t as wide as you might think. Chris Paul is as good as it gets at the point guard position, but with Redick out and Matt Barnes easing his way back into action, depth could be an issue in this track meet. Jamal Crawford has been forced into a starting role (his first four starts in five seasons) and after Darren Collison, Los Angeles doesn’t have guards they can count on. Ricky Rubio has struggled this season, but this type of game fits his skill set.
Kevin Martin can fill it up in a hurry and scored 58 points in the two games against LAC this year. When the starters head to the bench, J.J. Barea and Alexey Schved have filled the void, recording a higher assist-to-turnover ratio than any of the starting five. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is a sneaky-good perimeter defender and very well could be the difference should he lock up Crawford.
Corey Brewer is another swing man that is capable of scoring in transition and defend multiple positions, giving the T-wolves the type of versatility it takes to defeat a strong Clippers team.
Fun Fact: The Timberwolves haven’t had the games highest scorer in two straight games, matching the longest such streak of the season. The opponent had the game’s highest scorer in all nine of the Clippers’ losses.