NBA Odds, Picks, Predictions: Timberwolves vs. Mavericks Betting Preview (March 21)

NBA Odds, Picks, Predictions: Timberwolves vs. Mavericks Betting Preview (March 21) article feature image

Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images. Pictured: Luka Doncic.

  • The Timberwolves face the Mavericks in a pivotal Western Conference clash with seeding implications.
  • The Timberwolves have been red-hot lately, but the Mavs are short home favorites.
  • Brandon Anderson breaks down the matchup and shares his best bet below.

Timberwolves vs. Mavericks Odds

Timberwolves Odds+3.5
Mavericks Odds-3.5
Time8:30 p.m. ET
TVNBA League Pass
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The NBA postseason is under a month away, and the race for playoff seeding is heating up. With the advent of the play-in tournament, every seed 1-through-10 matters now, and that brings us to an important game between the Timberwolves and Mavericks.

The Wolves are smashing. They're 11-2 since the All-Star Break, best in the NBA, and this isn't just some hot streak. The Wolves have won 18 of their last 23 games. Since the calendar flipped to 2022, Minnesota is 26-11, a 58-win pace. Minnesota is not just a cute young team anymore. The Wolves are here.

When 2022 began, it looked like Minnesota would be in decent position for the play-in. Plans have changed. Now Minnesota is hoping to avoid the play-in altogether, which means chasing down the six-seed, and that brings us back to the Mavericks. The Wolves and Mavs play twice this week, tonight and Friday. Minnesota is 42-30 while Dallas is 43-28, so a Wolves win tonight pulls them into a tie in the wins column with Dallas for the five-seed.

These teams split a home-and-home in December, but Luka Doncic and Anthony Edwards missed both, and these teams look a lot different now than they did back then.

Can the Wolves head to Dallas and send this West play-in race into complete chaos?

Timberwolves Peaking Down the Stretch

The metrics say the Timberwolves are real. Minnesota ranks among the top eight in both Net Rating and SRS ahead of both Dallas and Denver, the two teams Minnesota is chasing. The next six Wolves games come against Dallas, Phoenix, Dallas, Boston, Toronto, and Denver, with four of those on the road. If the Wolves think they're among the top six in the West, Monday night is the time to prove it.

Minnesota is mostly healthy, though Jaden McDaniels is out. That might not be the worst thing for the Wolves. McDaniels is a nice young prospect, but the Wolves have a -6.1 Net Rating per 100 possessions with McDaniels on the court this season. Without him, they should feed more minutes to Jarred Vanderbilt, who has a +4.5 Net Rating per 100. Vando also has double-digit rebounds in 14 of his 22 games (64%) with 30-plus minutes.

The Timberwolves have one of the stronger team identities in the league. Chris Finch has really done a great job helping this team know exactly what they are, and what they do best.

On offense, the Wolves will run and shoot. Minnesota leads the NBA in scoring at 115.5 points per game. The Wolves rank second in pace, pushing at every opportunity, and they crash the offensive glass to get extra opportunities. They also take and make a ton of 3s. Minnesota leads the league in 3-point attempts and makes, knocking down 14.8 treys per game.

The defensive identity is clear, too. Minnesota is uber-aggressive on defense to a fault. The Wolves try to force the issue. Minnesota forces the second-most turnovers in the league, and the Wolves rank top-five in both steals and blocks.

That comes at a cost, though. It means Minnesota also leads the league in free throws allowed since the Wolves play so aggressive, and it also means vulnerability on the glass. Teams that can protect the ball and hit the offensive glass can give this defense problems.

Still, the formula is working. Minnesota is 11-2 since the break, and its last nine wins have all been by at least nine points, including wins over the Bucks, Heat, and Warriors. Minnesota has the best Net Rating in the NBA over the past 10 games, and the Wolves have the league's best and hottest offense.

The Timberwolves are rolling.

Mavericks Thriving Without Porzingis

The Mavs are finally home after a tough five-game road trip that ended poorly. Dallas lost the last two games by double digits, including going down 16-2 within three minutes against the Hornets on Saturday night.

Those last two games notwithstanding, the Mavs are still finding ways to win games. Dallas is 11-4 in its 15 games since trading away its second best player, Kristaps Porzingis. Spencer Dinwiddie has been a quick fit. He's averaged 20.0 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 3.6 assists since moving into the starting lineup and has hit a pair of game-winners. Still, the Mavs are grinding out these wins. Unlike Minnesota, only one win since the KP trade has been by more than nine.

Some stylistic differences should make for an interesting battle. Dallas ranks dead last in the NBA in pace, and both previous matchups played even slower than the usual Mavs' pace. Both games ended at 216 points so the under could be a good look here, though remember, Doncic and Edwards missed both of those games, and these two teams are very different now.

The Mavs also allow the fewest 3s in the league at 10.9 per game, making a defensive effort to run teams off the 3-point line, so that will be a battle against Minnesota's desire to shoot early and often. Dallas is a strong rebounding team, and the Mavs protect the ball well. On paper, the Mavs are set up well to combat some of Minnesota's identifying strengths.

Expect a big game from Luka Doncic because, well, what else is new? Doncic had a slow start to the year, but he's been a monster since the Porzingis trade with 33.5 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 6.8 assists per game. He's scored 30 or more in 10 of those 15 games, and he's taking and making a ton of 3s.

Doncic averages 4.3 treys on scorching 41% from beyond the arc, and his volume is way up with double-digit attempts in all but four of those games. Doncic has at least four 3s in nine of the last 15 (60%) and at least five in six of them (40%).

The Mavs offense actually hasn't been great this year. It's not far from league average, and Doncic is doing the heavy lifting, with 41% usage since the KP trade. Against a defense that allows a ton of 3-point attempts and fouls a lot, Doncic should have another big scoring game.

But Dallas is winning with its defense. If the Mavs win Monday night, it will almost certainly have to be because Dallas found a way to slow down this red hot Wolves offense.

Timberwolves-Mavericks Pick

I don't play many totals, but this feels high at 230. Both previous matchups saw 216 points and an extremely slow pace. It's always far easier to slow a team down than speed them up. Dallas games have gone under 230 in seven of their last eight (88%) and 16 of 19 (84%), and even at their faster pace, Minnesota games are under 230 in three of the last five. I like the under.

Even so, I'll look to play some Doncic prop overs. I'll consider over 3.5 made 3s up to -150 and over 4.5 at +150 or longer. An alternate points over at 35- or 40-plus points could be juicy too. Parlaying that with the under might seem counter-intuitive but could make sense since Doncic is taking on such a huge load offensively, even in these slower, lower scoring games.

Dallas opens as a 3.5-point favorite, and that feels high. Minnesota has been the better team for several months and even more so lately. Remember, the Wolves lead the league in Net Rating over the last 10 games. Dallas is around league average over that stretch with a bottom-five offense and the league's worst fourth quarter attack.

I like Minnesota +3.5, especially since the Wolves can cover that without even winning since Dallas is winning so many close games. Three of the last five Mavs victories failed to cover this line. For that reason, I'd play a Minnesota cover ahead of the +135 moneyline to get that extra cushion.

But the angle with the most outs is the under. Dallas will force this game to its pace and limit easy Minnesota buckets by cutting down on turnovers and 3-point attempts. We can go under if Dallas wins and plays its game. We can go under if the Mavs offense no-shows. We can even go under if Minnesota wins a close, tough, contested battle.

This game could easily end up double digits under the total, so I'll play the under to 227.

Pick: Under 230 (-110) down to 227 | Consider Minnesota +3.5 and Doncic Overs

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Nick Sterling
Jul 21, 2024 UTC