LOS ANGELES LAKERS (20-26)
at MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES (17-25)
Tip-off: Friday, 9:35 p.m. ET
Line: Los Angeles -2.5, Total: 197.5
The Lakers look to end a nearly six-week road win drought when they try to extend a long series win streak versus Minnesota on Friday night.
Los Angeles hasn't won a road game since Dec. 22 when it beat Golden State by three points in overtime. Since then, the Lakers are 0-8 SU (1-7 ATS) on the road, giving up a hefty 108.4 PPG on 49% FG (43% threes) to these hosts. Minnesota is also going through a rough stretch, posting a 1-10 SU mark (2-8-1 ATS) in the past 11 games, losing five straight contests. The Wolves have also had a terrible time facing the Lakers in recent years, losing 19 straight contests (8-10-1 ATS), which is the longest current streak of dominance in the NBA. Both teams could be missing their best post player as Lakers C Dwight Howard is questionable with a shoulder injury, and Wolves PF Kevin Love remains out with a broken hand.
Which long losing skid will fall on Friday night? For the answer, connect to NBA Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. For NBA Totals, the experts are a stellar 19-6 (76%) in the past seven days with StatFox Gary going 9-1 and StatFox Brian at 5-2 since Jan. 25. For the season, StatFox Scott is a strong (58%) (67-48) in Totals, while Gary is a solid 53% (60-54-4). For Best Bets, Scott is 8-5 ATS (62%) since Jan. 24 to boost his season Best Bets mark to 53.2% ATS (67-59-1). Brian is at 51.1% ATS (71-68-3) after a 4-3 ATS mark in the past five days.
The Lakers defense has been poor all season, but it has been especially awful outside of Staples Center, allowing 105.7 PPG on 47% FG. And after three straight 100-point games, the offense struggled in Wednesday's loss in Phoenix, scoring 86 points on 42% FG with 19 turnovers. But L.A. has had little trouble scoring in this series over the past five seasons, lighting up the Wolves for 106.4 PPG in these 18 victories. SG Kobe Bryant (28.1 PPG, 5.3 APG, 5.1 RPG) has 24.0 PPG, 5.2 RPG and 5.0 APG in 56 career meetings with the Wolves, scoring 32.0 PPG on 46% FG (44% threes) in the four matchups last season. But after netting 20 points in 24 straight games from to Dec. 2 to Jan. 20, Bryant is averaging just 18.5 PPG (47% FG) in the past six games, missing all 14 of his three-point attempts. He does have 9.3 APG during this stretch though with an impressive 2.95 Ast/TO ratio (56 Ast, 19 TO). PF Pau Gasol (12.8 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 3.7 APG) has averaged a near double-double versus the Wolves since coming to L.A., averaging 19.4 PPG and 10.7 RPG in these 16 meetings. He's still adjusting to life coming off the bench though, posting a pedestrian 12.3 PPG and 5.3 RPG in his past three games. PG Steve Nash (11.5 PPG, 7.7 APG) is assuming more of an offensive role with 13.8 PPG on 54% FG (7-of-14 threes) in the past four games. And in three meetings versus the Wolves last year, Nash averaged a double-double with 17.3 PPG and 11.0 APG. PF Earl Clark (6.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG) has had a strong 12-game stretch, averaging 11.4 PPG (12-of-22 threes) and 9.1 RPG.
Minnesota's defense has been great at home this season (92.7 PPG, 42.6% FG allowed), but it has been dreadful during the current five-game losing skid (101.4 PPG on 51.0% FG). The Wolves did a poor job on the boards in Wednesday's home loss to the Clippers, getting outrebounded 45-38, including 15-8 on the offensive glass. That wasn't the return that head coach Rick Adelman envisioned after he missed 11 games to be with his wife who was suffering from seizures. C Nikola Pekovic (16.0 PPG, 8.7 RPG) did play well though with 17 points and 12 boards, which was a bit surprising since he had missed the previous five games with a thigh injury. Pekovic also flourished against the Lakers last season too, with 17.0 PPG and 10.3 RPG in the four meetings. PG Ricky Rubio (5.1 PPG, 5.2 APG) has tried to assume more of an offensive role in the past two games with 11.5 PPG, but he shot horribly against L.A. last season, averaging just 7.7 PPG on 24% FG (8-for-33), but he did have 27 assists and just five turnovers (5.4 Ast/TO ratio) in the three games. SF Andrei Kirilenko (13.7 PPG, 6.6 RPG) has scored in double-figures in eight straight games, but he's just 5-of-16 from the floor in the past two contests. In two games versus L.A. last season, he scored only 10.0 PPG on 39% FG.