Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 12:00 PM EST.
10:35 PM EST. The race to lock up a Western Conference playoff spot is a tight one, as the fourth and 10th placed teams are separated by just four wins. Right on the cut line sits these Timberwolves with a 44-35 record, which is currently good for the number eight spot. The market perception that the T-Wolves are in a fight while the Lakers have little to play for is just one of the reasons Minnesota is spotting points on the road here. Another is the return of All-Star guard Jimmy Butler, who will play tonight. Butler has been out since late February and the T-Wolves went just 5-9 without him. There is no doubt if Minnesota was playing betting in Butler's absence, it wouldn't be rushing him back tonight. He was active but did not see any action in a loss to the Nuggets last night. Further inflating the Timberwolves value in this game is their recent dominance of the Lakers. Minnesota has won all three meetings this season by an average margin of 14.3 points, which makes this small number look so appealing. However, while much improved, the T-Wolves have not ascended to a level where they can be trusted to be road chalk. Finally, the "must-win" angle is totally in place here, but that nonsense is for the pick sellers and pundits. We'd much rather back a live pooch that should relish the role of spoiler.
The spotlight has been white hot on the Lakers since the day they drafted Lonzo Ball, but it was probably a pipe dream to expect him to help turn L.A.'s hot mess of a team around in just one season. Ball is now nursing a knee injury, but his absence from the lineup will only encourage those in the market that are looking for a reason to fade L.A. The Lakers traded half their roster to the Cavaliers mid-season with Isiah Thomas coming back as the main centerpiece of the deal. Thomas is now injured for the rest of the season. Has anyone's stock dropped more than Thomas' from one season to another after becoming a folk hero for the Celtics in 2017? The Lakers are out of the playoff picture, but it's not all bad news. L.A. has some nice young players including forward Kyle Kuzma who needs just 20 boards to become the first NBA rookie to go for 1200 points, 500 rebounds and 150 three-pointers in a season. With four games to go, it's an impressive feat he's likely to reach. With the Lakers seemingly headed in one direction, while the T-Wolves are going in another, we have to question why this line is so short. The Lakers were +6 the last time these two teams met in Los Angeles and got blasted 121-104. Now oddsmakers are giving them less tonight. We smell a rat. With the pressure off and the Lonzo circus show on the sidelines, this is a great spot for the Lakers to make the stretch run more difficult for the T-Wolves. The Lake Show is being disrespected on their home floor and we will not pass up a price on them to defend it against a weak road favorite. This line says Lakers play their hearts out tonight with a great chance to win outright.
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L.A. LAKERS +156 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 3.12)