So Niki and I made the 15-mile journey from Mission Bay in San Francisco to Oracle Arena in Oakland on Tuesday, April 5. We grabbed some cocktails, watched Steph blitz through his captivating warm-up routine – complete with tunnel shot – and just before tip I went to my phone and laid the 14 points like a sucker because I wanted action and wasn’t about to fade the local phenomenon.
The Dubs led by nine points after the first quarter, nine at the half and eight at the start of the fourth. And then, something bizarre happened. Shabazz Muhammad and Andrew Wiggins caught fire, Minnesota closed the gap and the game went into overtime. Approximately 15 minutes later, we were exiting Oracle after witnessing a 124-117 Timberwolves victory that handed Golden State only its second home loss of the regular season.
On the way out of the building, my wife looks at me and says, “I thought the Warriors didn’t lose games?”
Ah, to be an innocent bystander in this racket we refer to as sports betting.
Driving north on 880 later that evening I could have easily found myself steaming at that losing wager or I could have spent the time reflecting on what went wrong with my process (perhaps it was a smooth, yet, rich blend of arrogance and apathy).
Instead, however, I chose to focus on the Timberwolves. Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins had just combined for 52 points and Muhammad had dropped a game-high 35 points off the bench in a monstrous upset that, temporarily, put Golden State’s chase for 73 regular season victories on hold.
Minnesota may have only won 29 games during the 2015-2016 regular season, but the club covered the number in four of its final five outings, featured a young and explosive nucleus and would go on to hire a new head coach in Tom Thibodeau while spending the fifth overall selection in June’s draft on highly-touted point guard prospect Kris Dunn out of Providence.
The Wolves intrigued me. I had just received an extremely up-close look at what I thought would be one of the 2016-2017 season’s more pleasant surprises.
Unfortunately, this young Minnesota roster and new head coach would experience some significant growing pains to commence the campaign. After all, the Western Conference is no place to expect quick rebuilds when the Splash Brothers plus Kevin Durant, James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Kawhi Leonard ply their craft each and every evening. The Timberwolves went 6-18 to open the year, quickly faded from the “pleasant surprise” radar and limped into the All-Star break at 22-35.
And then just like during the fourth quarter of that upset win at Golden State last April, something clicked.
Almost too quietly, Minnesota has put together an impressive 4-2 record since the All-Star break, with those defeats coming in overtime at San Antonio and against MVP-candidate James Harden and the Houston Rockets. And during that six-game stretch, the Timberwolves are plus-51 in scoring differential, plus-3 in turnover differential and are doing it all without Zach LaVine, who was lost for the season with an ACL injury at the beginning of February.
But perhaps even more impressive is the fact that the Timberwolves have covered the spread in a staggering seven straight games dating back to the club’s 112-99 win at Denver on February 15. During those seven contests, Minnesota has covered the pointspread by an average of 13.4 points per game.
Oh, and did I forget to mention the fact that Friday night, the Wolves will play host to the suddenly-stumbling Warriors?
That’s right, it’s all coming full circle in this article! Since the loss of Durant to a leg injury, Golden State has gone 2-3 SU and 1-4 ATS while scoring an average of just 102.4 points per game, which is down from the team’s pre-Durant injury average of 118.2 points per contest.
However, I want you to know that I’ve saved the best nugget for last. Since the Durant injury, the Under is 4-1 in Golden State matchups. Perhaps not the most ferocious trend on the market at this time. But combine that with the fact that the Under has hit in four straight Minnesota games and six of the last seven Timberwolves contests, and you may be very interested in Friday night’s opening line of Golden State -4.5/217.5 at Minnesota.
And one last piece of advice before we part ways for the weekend: Saturday night in San Antonio looks like it will be the first time all season in which the Warriors enter a game as underdogs.
Lay the points with San Antonio, as the Dubs will be playing their fifth game in seven nights, four of which took place on the road.
Have a great weekend, everybody!