OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (21-4)
at MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES (12-11)
Tip-off: Thursday, 7:05 p.m. ET
Line: Oklahoma City -3, Total: 200
The Thunder look to increase two long winning streaks on Thursday night when they visit Minnesota.
Oklahoma City is currently riding a 12-game winning streak (9-3 ATS), and has also beaten the Wolves in 12 straight meetings. However, Minnesota is 8-4 ATS during this series losing skid, including five consecutive ATS victories in close losses of 1, 8, 4, 9 and 5 points. The Wolves are riding a two-game losing skid, but they haven't lost at home since Nov. 21, going 4-0 SU (3-1 ATS) on their home floor.
Can the Timberwolves end the Thunder's long win streak? For the answer, connect to NBA Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. The experts were a perfect 5-0 ATS on Wednesday and are at 52% ATS (149-140-10) on Best Bets for the season. StatFox Gary is 58% ATS (29-21-3) Best Bets for the year. StatFox Scott is at 53% ATS (34-30) Best Bets for the season and StatFox Brian is at 51.4% ATS (37-35-3) after going 5-2 ATS (71%) in the past six days. For NBA Totals, Scott is 39-24 (62%) for the season, while Gary is 8-6 (57%) in Totals since Dec. 13.
Thunder SF Durant has been outstanding during his team's 12-game win streak, pumping in 29.8 PPG on 55% FG and 43% threes. In Wednesday's 100-92 win in Atlanta, Durant scored 41 points (14-of-23 FG) and grabbed 13 rebounds. PG Russell Westbrook has also been playing at an extremely high level during the 12-game surge, averaging 21.0 PPG (40% threes) and 9.3 APG. He had a double-double against the Hawks with 27 points and 11 assists. And like Durant, Westbrook destroyed the Timberwolves last year when he scored a ridiculous 36.0 PPG on 53% FG and 96% FT (26-of-27) in three meetings. He should be able to have his way with the Wolves once again as Ricky Rubio is still not fully healed from his knee injury. Super sub SG Kevin Martin continues to provide scoring punch off the bench, posting 14.7 PPG (46% FG, 93% FT) during the 12-game ride, and PF Serge Ibaka continues to be one of the game's elite interior defenders with 3.0 BPG for the season (2nd in NBA) and 14.0 RPG over the past three contests.
For Minnesota to pull off the upset, it will have to put forth more effort on the defensive end of the court. The Timberwolves rank 7th in the NBA in points allowed (94.4 PPG), but have surrendered more than 100 points in five straight games (103.6 PPG). Minnesota is also a top-notch rebounding team (45.3 RPG, 3rd in NBA), especially with PF Kevin Love (14.2 RPG) back healthy. He has 9+ rebounds in all 13 of his games this season, but is shooting an anemic 32.1% FG with 9-of-40 three-pointers (22.5%) over his past nine games. Love made just 2-of-10 shots in Tuesday's 102-93 loss to Miami. But he didn't have any trouble scoring against Oklahoma City last year, posting 36.5 PPG and 13.0 RPG in the two meetings. PG Ricky Rubio is slowly recovering from last year's torn ACL and he did not play in Tuesday's game, which was the second part of a back-to-back. He does expect to suit up on Thursday though, which should be a big upgrade from PG Luke Ridnour who has just eight assists and seven turnovers in the past three games. The Wolves will try to establish the paint, but it's never easy scoring on Ibaka and C Kendrick Perkins. Minnesota C Nikola Pekovic has been outstanding in the past five games though (22.2 PPG on 56% FG, 9.8 RPG) and SF Andrei Kirilenko has been steady all season with 13.9 PPG (52% FG) and 7.4 RPG. He pumped in 22 points in the loss in Miami on Tuesday. Minnesota has four players 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).