The Pick: Timberwolves 108-99
What has changed?
Minnesota has defeated Dallas twice this season (by an average of seven points), and I see no reason at all why a similar outcome shouldn’t happen tonight. Kevin Love (averaging 31 and 15 over his last six games) has proven unstoppable (53 points, 26 rebounds and 10 assists in the two games against the Mavs), while Corey Brewer has done enough against Monta Ellis (46 percent shooting from the field) defensively for the Timberwolves to survive two high scoring affairs.
In fact, one could argue that the Mavericks were lucky to be as close as they were to the T-Wolves. In the two previous games, Dallas was out-rebounded by 11, yet they held a 26 point edge in the paint. Personally, I’m buying the rebound advantage for Minnesota and selling the paint scoring of the Mavericks.
Nikola Pekovic is too skilled for Samuel Dalembart and simply too big for the undersized DeJuan Blair, giving the home team a massive advantage. If Pekovic can establish himself on the block (he made 10 of 13 shots for 21 points exactly one month ago against this very Dallas team), the perimeter opens up for Love and Kevin Martin (he has attempted 10-plus free throws just four times this season, but two of them came against Dallas). Even if they can contain Pek, the perimeter defense of the Mavericks leaves much to be desired and should be the deciding factor.
Don’t sleep on Ricky Rubio from a scoring standpoint either, even though this has been a disappointing campaign for the Spaniard. His scoring average is 35.1 percent higher at home than it is on the road, giving Minnesota yet another option.
We can agree that this is going to be a high scoring game, which means Ellis is going to get his points. But if it comes in an inefficient manner (shoots 43 percent on the road as opposed to 50 percent at home), Dallas is going to fall behind and struggle to make a late push.
Fun Fact: The Mavericks haven’t won three consecutive road games this season and didn’t do so until early March last season (they’ve won two straight entering tonight’s action).