NBA: Rivalries new and old headline Wednesday’s slate

NBA: Rivalries new and old headline Wednesday’s slate article feature image

It looks like a night for the underdogs as one of the great NBA rivalries continues in Boston while another may just be starting in Oakland.

Yesterday: LeBron James… One missed free throw with six seconds left was the difference between a profitable 2-2 day and the eventual 1-2-1 day in the red.


Lakers (5-5) @ Celtics (9-2)

Believe it or not, the Lakers are a pretty decent team defensively. They’ve all bought in with Julius Randle — who was a turnstile last season — even producing some incredible individual numbers.

Their 102.8 defensive rating is good for fifth in the league, and they’re keeping opponents to a respectable 50.6 effective field goal percentage (10th). All of this following a 2016-17 season where the Lakers were consistently one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA.

Tonight they travel to Boston to face the stingiest team in the league.

The Celtics are first in defensive rating (98.2) opponent effective field goal percentage (47.8 percent) and opponent points per game (94.5 points). Their elite defense will be tough for the young Lakers to crack; reaching their 106.7 points per game average is unlikely.

As a surprise team playing well of late, the Lakers should keep this one close. In their 10 games this season, only three have been decided by 11 or more points. The Celtics, on the other hand, don’t score in abundance. They slow the pace to a crawl at 96.88 possessions per 48 minutes and grind the opposition down. Their defense in addition to the pace of play lets them get away with their 22nd ranked 103.5 points per game.

The Lakers were given +9.5 to open but have since moved to +7 after Al Horford was ruled out due to a concussion. I like them to cover and am also leaning to the under set at 208 points.

Pick: Lakers +7

Timberwolves (7-3) @ Warriors (8-3)

The Timberwolves are on a five-game winning streak at the moment and can announce themselves as genuine contenders with a win over the Warriors tonight.

I don’t think they will win, but I like them to cover the +8.5 line.

Minnesota started the season awful defensively but in their last three wins have kept their opponents to under 100 points. They match up relatively well with Golden State with Jimmy Butler embracing a more defensive role recently. He will no doubt be tasked with containing one of Steph Curry or Klay Thompson while Jeff Teague and Andrew Wiggins switch between the other.

There’s only so much teams can do to stop the Warriors’ juggernaut, but the Timberwolves are no slouches when it comes to scoring points either. They rank seventh with 109.4 points per game on the back of Butler, Wiggins, Jeff Teague and Karl Anthony-Towns all averaging 13-plus.

The Warriors lead the league with their 51.2 percent field goal percentage, but the Timberwolves should be able to bring that down a touch, having kept their last three opponents to an average of 43.9 percent.

It’s a big ask for Minnesota, but they are 3-0-1 against the spread following a straight up win, and the Warriors are 0-6 against the spread against teams with a winning percentage above .600.

The trends point one way and the form of Minnesota’s defense back them up.

Pick: Timberwolves +8.5

Remaining Games:

Pacers (5-6) @ Pistons (7-3)
Knicks (6-4) @ Magic (6-4)
Heat (4-6) @ Suns (4-7)

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