MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES (12-10)
at MIAMI HEAT (15-6)
Tip-off: Tuesday, 7:35 p.m. ET
Line: Miami -9, Total: 198
The Heat look to retain their dominance over the Timberwolves when the two clubs meet on Tuesday night.
Miami has beaten Minnesota four straight times by an average of 16.5 PPG, scoring 110.0 PPG on 53% FG during this stretch. However, the most recent meeting last December 30 was a tight one as the Heat prevailed 103-101. Currently, both teams are playing pretty well, as the Wolves are 7-3 (SU and ATS) in their past 10 games, while Miami has won nine of 12 contests (6-6 ATS).
Will the Heat be able to cover this huge spread? For the answer, connect to NBA Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. The experts are at 52% ATS (143-132-10) on Best Bets for the season. StatFox Gary is 59% ATS (27-17-3) Best Bets for the season, while StatFox Scott is at 54% ATS (33-28) and StatFox Brian is at 51% ATS (35-34-3) after a 3-1 ATS run over the past four days. For NBA Totals, Scott is 39-22 (64%) for the season, while Gary is 7-3 (70%) in Totals since Dec. 13, going 3-0 on Sunday/Monday.
For Minnesota to compete in this game, it will have to defend much better than it has lately. The Timberwolves rank 6th in the NBA in scoring defense (94.0 PPG), but have given up more than 100 points in four straight games (103.8 PPG). Minnesota is also a great rebounding team (45.3 RPG, 4th in NBA), especially with PF Kevin Love on the floor. He has at least nine rebounds in all 12 games this season, but he has been shooting horribly in his past eight games with a 33.1% FG clip on 9-of-40 three-pointers (22.5%). Love averages 16.4 PPG and 9.4 RPG in seven career meetings with Miami, including 25 points and 12 boards in last year's two-point loss. Another star player that is finally back from injury, PG Ricky Rubio, has also struggled to make baskets. In his two games back, Rubio has a total of eight points on 1-of-7 FG. However, he has run an efficient offense with 13 assists and adding four steals in these 35 minutes of action. Rubio may not play on Tuesday on the back end of consecutive games coming off a torn ACL, but PG Luke Ridnour is perfectly capable of running the show with 13.6 PPG, 28 assists and just nine turnovers over the past five games. The Wolves have also been getting great contributions from C Nikola Pekovic in the past four games (23.3 PPG on 58% FG, 9.3 RPG) and SF Andrei Kirilenko has been rock-solid all season with 13.5 PPG (51% FG) and 7.6 RPG. In addition to Rubio, Minnesota has four players all out with knee injuries, SF Chase Budinger (11.8 PPG), PF Josh Howard (6.7 PPG), SG Brandon Roy (5.8 PPG) and SG Malcolm Lee (4.9 PPG).
Miami's defense has been suffocating over the past four games, limiting opponents to just 87.8 PPG on 43% FG. The Heat's offense (103.1 PPG, 4th in NBA) continues to be led by superstars SF LeBron James (25.4 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 6.7 APG) and SG Dwyane Wade (19.4 PPG on 51% FG). James has at least 20 points in all 21 games this season, but Wade has attempted 13 field goals or less in each of the past five games, scoring 18.4 PPG on 58% FG and 83% FT. He might be more selfish on Tuesday considering he's averaged 30.4 PPG in the past nine meetings with the Wolves. PF Chris Bosh might have a tough time creating space down low against Minnesota's large frontcourt, but he always plays well against the Wolves, averaging 21.9 PPG and 9.1 RPG over the past seven meetings in this series.