Why there is value in Timberwolves facing Kevin Durant, SunsMarch 29th, 2023
The NBA season will conclude in less than two weeks, with teams accepting one of three fates. Twelve teams will have a playoff spot locked up, while 10 will be forced to look toward the lottery. The remaining eight teams, four in each conference, will have a shot to earn their way into the postseason via the NBA’s play-in tournament. Currently in seventh place in the Western Conference standings, the Minnesota Timberwolves find themselves close to the demarcation line of postseason security and instability. If that’s not precarious enough, being a game behind the defending champion Golden State Warriors surely amplifies the urgency of each remaining game.
The road just got tougher for the Wolves, who are in Phoenix on Wednesday night in hopes of winning their fifth straight and staying on the right side of the playoff picture. News broke Tuesday that Suns star forward Kevin Durant is expected to return to the lineup after an ankle injury delayed his home debut with the Suns earlier this month. Phoenix lost six of 10 games without Durant after ripping off three straight road wins since he was acquired from Brooklyn.
The return of Durant makes this matchup appointment viewing for multiple reasons. First, while the Suns need to use these last seven games to build chemistry with Durant, they have slowly slipped down the standings without him. Despite being the current fourth seed in the Western Conference, they are only 1.5 games ahead of Minnesota. So how should we bet on such a pivotal game for both teams? It’s hard to project how much of Durant we will see in his first game back, but I’m not sure it will matter if the odds continue to climb.
Minnesota Timberwolves (+5.5) at Phoenix Suns (O/U 234.5)
Durant dropped 37 points in 40 minutes the last time he was on the floor, so I don’t expect any challenges integrating a player of his caliber back into the offense. Additionally, I’m willing to bet he doesn’t log that many minutes in his first game back, either.
That opens the door for us to grab the points with the underdog. Phoenix was 3-0 ATS with Durant, but this is a lot of points to lay, considering the importance of the game for Minnesota. The Timberwolves are playing their best ball of the season, coming off consecutive road wins at Golden State and Sacramento. This is Edwards’ third game back from injuring his ankle, and Minnesota has a lot of momentum with their “Big Three” finally healthy. Coach Chris Finch is starting to figure out how to effectively use Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert together, and I expect the results to get better down the stretch.
Among road teams in March, Minnesota ranked eighth in net rating and 12th in defensive rating. The Timberwolves are on a 7-2 ATS road run over the last nine games, covering six of those games as underdogs and further cementing my belief that they have been recently undervalued by the market when away from home.
The Suns are certainly the better team when Durant is on the floor, and I doubt they drop a game of this importance at home (pass on the Minnesota moneyline). However, the T’Wolves’ defense held up in Sacramento, holding the Kings to 46% shooting from the floor and 5-o-27 from 3-point range. I’m confident they follow it up with another solid performance in Phoenix, and the return of KD allows us to grab a good number with a Minnesota team that won’t lay down easy. The bet: Minnesota +5.5
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