MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES (12-12)
at BOSTON CELTICS (11-14)
Tip-off: Monday, 7:35 p.m. ET
Line: Minnesota -2, Total: 199.5
The surging Timberwolves wrap up a three-game road trip when they visit the Celtics Monday night.
Minnesota went into Memphis on Sunday and came away with a big 101-93 win-and-cover, marking its third SU win in the past four games and improving the team to 8-5 ATS on the road. Boston last played on Friday where it hosted the Knicks and won 90-86, while also covering a 3-point spread, making its record 6-6 (SU and ATS) at home. These two teams met Nov. 16 with the Timberwolves rolling to an expected 106-88 home win as 10-point favorites. In the four meetings between these teams over the past three seasons, the teams have split games both 2-2 SU and ATS, and the Celtics are 9-7 SU (7-9 ATS) when hosting in this series since 1996. Over the past three seasons, Boston is 35-21 ATS (63%) after having lost two of its past three games. However, the Celtics are 92-126 ATS (42%) in home games after two straight games with 10 or less offensive rebounds since 1996. On the injury front, Minnesota SG Kevin Martin (knee) is probable for the Monday's game, while PF Kris Humphries (knee) is questionable for Boston.
Which team will prevail on Monday night? For the answer, connect to The Platinum Sheet for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. The five experts are at 55% ATS (26-21) on Best Bets in December. During this timeframe, StatFox Zach has a stellar 90% ATS mark (9-1) and is currently 57% ATS (20-15) on Best Bets for the season. StatFox Dave has a 70% ATS (7-3) Best Bets record in December.
Minnesota could finish its road trip with a winning record with a victory over the Celtics Monday. Since missing the Dec. 7 game in Miami due to the death of his grandmother, PF Kevin Love (25.0 PPG, 13.6 RPG, 4.1 APG) has been on an absolute tear. In the four games since returning from that absence, he is averaging 31.0 PPG (49% FG, 59% threes), 13.5 RPG and 4.5 APG. Love is contributing to the team everywhere they need him to, and he is a major reason they are averaging 105.5 PPG (4th in NBA), 45.2 RPG (6th in NBA) and 23.0 APG (8th in NBA). In the win against the Celtics last month, Love poured in 23 points with 12 boards and a +20 rating despite committing seven turnovers. This is one of the most complete offensive teams in the league with PG Ricky Rubio (9.6 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 2.9 SPG) running the show. Rubio is averaging 8.2 APG (4th in NBA) and is shooting a career-best 38% from three-point range. However, SG Kevin Martin (20.6 PPG, 41% threes) must get himself going again. He was one of the best shooting guards in the league to start the season, but over the past three games he is averaging just 6.3 PPG on 5-of-24 FG (21%) and 2-of-11 threes. This includes his zero-point output on Sunday when Martin missed all three of his shots in 19 minutes of action. Martin did score 20 points with six rebounds in the Nov. 16 win over Boston. C Nikola Pekovic (16.2 PPG, 8.7 RPG) dominated the Celtics that day with 20 points (8-of-9 FG) and 12 rebounds, including eight on the offensive glass. His presence will be key if the Timberwolves are going to put .500 basketball behind them.
Boston came away with a 90-86 victory over the Knicks in its most recent game on Friday, outscoring its division foe 22-13 in the final quarter. Despite their off-season fire sale and the absence of star PG Rajon Rondo, the Celtics are still leading the Atlantic Division this season. They have been successful because of their commitment to defense, allowing just 95.7 PPG (5th in NBA). Despite having just eight points in the Knicks game, SG Jeff Green (16.9 PPG, 4.4 RPG) has been playing great basketball as of late, averaging 20.0 PPG on 50% FG in his past nine contests. But Green played horribly in Minnesota last month, going 0-for-6 from the floor and finishing with two points, seven rebounds and four turnovers in 30 minutes. PF Jared Sullinger (13.5 PPG, 6.9 RPG) was the story of the game against New York Friday with 19 points, six rebounds and three assists. He is averaging 15.7 PPG and 7.0 RPG in his past nine games, but was absolutely dreadful against the Timberwolves on Nov. 16, tallying just three points and four rebounds with a minus-27 rating in his 14 minutes off the bench. PG Avery Bradley (13.2 PPG) was the most efficient Celtics player versus Minnesota that night with a game-high 27 points on 12-of-23 shooting. G Jordan Crawford (13.7 PPG, 5.5 APG) has also been excellent as the point guard for Boston with 6.9 APG and just 1.9 TOPG over his past 11 games. C Vitor Faverani (5.1 PPG, 4.2 RPG) provided a big dose of energy off the bench in Friday's win with seven points, four rebounds and a block in just 14 minutes of play.