LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (30-9)
at MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES (16-19)
Tip-off: Thursday, 8:00 p.m. ET
Line: Los Angeles -4.5, Total: 192
On Thursday night, the struggling Timberwolves are looking to get back on track with a win at home over a Clippers team that will likely be missing star PG Chris Paul again.
The Timberwolves went 0-4 (SU and ATS) on their just-completed four-game road trip, losing each of those four games by 10+ points, and by an average of 16.8 PPG. The Clippers, on the other hand, have won two straight, both on the road, despite the absence of Paul who has been bothered by a knee injury. They crushed Memphis 99-73 on Monday and scored a 117-109 win in Houston the next night. Minnesota not only will play without PF Kevin Love (hand) again, but three of its players are questionable due to illness -- SF Andrei Kirilenko, PF Lazar Hayward and SG Alexey Shved.
Can the Clippers win again without their leader? For the answer, connect to NBA Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. StatFox Brian is 23-14 ATS (62.2%) on NBA Best Bets since Dec. 23, giving him a 54.4% ATS mark (62-52-3) for the season. StatFox Scott has a season Best Bets mark of 53% ATS (54-48), with Gary at 51% ATS (46-45-4) for the season. The four experts are collectively 51% ATS (236-228-11) on Best Bets for the season. StatFox Dave is 5-1-1 ATS (83%) since Nov. 24 when he mentions the word "hammer" in his analysis, including 3-1 ATS when he uses the term "Hammertime" for a favorite covering a large spread. For NBA Totals, Scott continues to have a profitable year at 55-40 (58%) for his season NBA totals, while Brian has gone 3-1 in NBA Totals since Sunday.
Eric Bledsoe has gotten a chance to start in Paul’s absence and has performed brilliantly, averaging 16.5 PPG, 5.0 RPG and 4.5 APG in 32.5 MPG over the past two contests. Bledsoe is 11-for-21 from the field in these games and is also averaging 2.0 SPG. While the Clippers have been without a pure passer, PF Blake Griffin has stepped up and become a playmaker for Los Angeles. Griffin is averaging 6.6 APG over the past three games, and he had a team-high eight assists against Houston on Tuesday. In that win over the Rockets, SG Jamal Crawford exploded off the bench with 30 points on 11-of-20 shooting from the field.
The Timberwolves have really struggled since losing PF Kevin Love (18.3 PPG, 14.0 RPG), and the team is now 2-8 SU in the past 10 games without their star big man. Each of their past four defeats has been a blowout, with their closest loss being by 12 points on the road against the Hornets. C Nikola Pekovic has been one of the lone bright spots for Minnesota, averaging 18.8 PPG and 10.0 RPG over the past five games while shooting 59.0% from the field. PG J.J. Barea has come on strong over the past two games, averaging 18.0 PPG and 5.5 APG in those contests. Starting PG Ricky Rubio's surgically-repaired left knee is still not close to 100 percent. He averaged 10.6 PPG (36% FG) and 8.2 APG in 34.2 MPG last season, but those numbers have fallen to 3.8 PPG (22% FG) and 4.6 APG in 20.2 MPG this season. Because of his struggles, Barea is being counted on heavily to keep this team performing at a high level.