Timberwolves vs. Nuggets Odds
|Time||9 p.m. ET|
|TV||NBA League Pass|
|Odds via PointsBet. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.|
It is rare in the NBA regular season that any one game truly matters. The season is 82 games, and in that, there are usually opportunities to make and lose ground.
Entering Friday’s game, the Nuggets sit three games ahead of the Wolves in the loss column for the sixth playoff spot. The Wolves own the tiebreaker by virtue of a 2-1 lead in the season series and an insurmountable lead for division record, which is second tiebreaker. The Wolves would also win a three-way tie with the Jazz, and a three-way tie with the Nuggets and Warriors.
If the Nuggets beat the Wolves Friday, even with the tiebreaker scenario, Denver’s magic number for a playoff spot would be one, and the Wolves’ tragic number for elimination from a playoff spot would be two, effectively ending any realistic hope for the Wolves of escaping the play-in.
Should the Wolves beat the Nuggets, however, it opens the scenario that should Denver go 2-2 in their final four vs. the Lakers (with LeBron and a returning Anthony Davis), the Spurs, and the Grizzlies (who have locked the 2-seed and have nothing to play for), a 4-0 finish for the Wolves ties them and sneaks them into the playoffs.
Likewise, a 1-3 finish for Denver would get the Wolves in with a 3-1 finish, and an unlikely 0-4 finish for Denver gets Minnesota in just with a 2-2 record.
If Minnesota is going to escape the play-in, they have to win this game. The Nuggets can basically put their play-in concerns behind them with a win, which in turn goes a long way to locking up Nikola Jokic’s MVP.
No pressure. Let’s bet this thing.
Timberwolves Have Edge in Season Matchup
Jaden McDaniels and Malik Beasley are out.
The Wolves have had a lot of success against Denver this season. In particular, the 3-point advantage has been massive for the Wolves. Minnesota has hit 16 more 3’s in the three matchups this season than Denver.
Denver won the first season matchup on a game-winning block by Will Barton, and the Wolves have dominated since then, winning by double digits in the next two and putting up over 120 on the Nuggets.
Equally notable is that the Wolves won the Nikola Jokic minutes in their two wins. They lost the Joker minutes by 17 in the loss they had. That’s a stark difference from how the matchup has gone the last several years. For his career, Karl-Anthony Towns is 8-13 vs. Jokic, and before this season had lost six straight since knocking the Nuggets out of the playoffs in a win-and-in game in 2018.
Equally interesting is that the Wolves’ defensive scheme should be less impactful vs. Denver. The Wolves play two at the level in pick-and-roll to pressure the key ball handler and get the ball out of his hands. The Nuggets don’t have a primary ball-handler since Jokic is effectively point-center.
But then, the Wolves haven’t really won these games with their defense. Denver had a 113 and 107 Offensive Rating in the two Wolves wins, which is why that 3-point rate matters.
The Wolves have the second-highest rate of 3-point makes per 100 possessions in the league both for the season and since the All-Star break, while Denver is 19th since All-Star. Defensively, it’s the opposite. The Wolves have given up the 10th-most 3-point makes per 100 possessions this season and eighth-most since All-Star while Denver has allowed the 13th-fewest per 100.
If the Wolves can create 3-point looks, they have a great chance of winning this game. The Wolves’ margin is less now because the Nuggets have drastically improved their bench unit, but Denver’s starters have been in struggle mode for three weeks.
Denver ranks 26th in Defensive Rating the past two weeks, the Wolves are 23rd. These two teams were top-10 in the start of the season. The gradual regression of officiating and offenses back to what we’ve seen the last three years has had a huge impact.
Minnesota should be able to create those 3-point opportunities because Denver’s point of attack defense has fallen off a cliff. They can’t keep anyone in front of them, which means Anthony Edwards, Patrick Beverley, and D’Angelo Russell should be able to break it down and create shots for others, on top of whatever KAT can give them.
There’s also a tactical advantage here in that Wolves coach Chris Finch is a former Nuggets assistant and understands their offense inside and out.
Can Nikola Jokic Continue to Carry the Nuggets?
Michael Porter Jr., Jamal Murray, Vlatko Cancar, and Zeke Nnaji are all out. JaMychal Green is questionable.
At this point, their best hope is Jokic getting another 40-point triple-double. They are outmatched in shooting, their starters look gassed, they turn the ball over at the fourth-highest rate in the league, and their second-best player over the last month of play is their backup rookie point guard, who was drafted 26th overall.
Things have not been going well for a team that is 10-6 since March 1. They blew a 31-point lead (!!!) vs. the Pacers before hanging on on Wednesday. They suck by the Hornets on Monday. Denver has beaten three teams above .500 since the All-Star break, with one of those the zombie Warriors without Draymond Green and/or multiple starters.
At the same time, they managed to get big wins vs. the Sixers and Clippers when they needed to, and this team has historically played well in must-win situations under Michael Malone.
The Wolves force the second-most points off turnovers per 100 possessions this season, and Denver allows the fourth-most. They don’t just turn the ball over, they allow live-ball turnovers that turn into high-percentage opportunities.
This line opened Nuggets -4.5 and has moved to -2.5 at the time of this writing.
That movement, combined with the 3-point and turnover edge makes me believe there’s value on the Wolves all the way to a pick ’em and I like them on the moneyline as well.
Additionally, these two defenses have fallen off a cliff. The total opened 233.5 and has been steamed up to 240.5. I’m not sure there’s value at this number, but if you’re going to bet it, the over is definitely the way to go as a Wolves win looks like them putting up over 120, and a Nuggets win looks like them beating the Wolves 125-120.
Pick: Wolves +2.5 & Wolves ML | Lean: Over 240.5