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Two teams down key players will face off in Minnesota, while James Harden looks to keep up his strong play in LA
ANALYSIS

Minnesota Timberwolves vs Boston Celtics Prediction: Which Team Figures it Out?

Minnesota Timberwolves vs Boston Celtics

Timberwolves vs Celtics Odds

As we inch ever closer to the halfway mark of this NBA season, there have arguably been no more confusing teams in the league than the Celtics and Timberwolves.

Let’s start in Boston, where a team that many pegged as a lock for a top-six seed sits a game under .500, in 9th place in a highly competitive Eastern Conference. On paper, they are better than their record and place in the standings indicate, with a positive net rating that ranks 12th in the NBA. Their 10th ranked defense is their backbone, but Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have roughly the statistical profiles one would expect.

Brown has missed a lot of time though, and then on Monday morning, word came down that Tatum was entering health and safety protocols himself. The one thing the Celtics haven’t had to deal with this season is having to play without their top dog. Now they'll face that challenge.

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Tatum’s absence will make it that much harder to establish any modicum of consistency. Their longest winning streak equals their longest losing streak (three) and every time it feels like they’ve found something, they suffer another loss that makes you question whether it was all a mirage. They’re just 4-7 in their last 11 games, with three of those wins coming against the depleted Blazers, Knicks, and Cavs.

Looking closer though, it’s clear that while this has been an inconsistent team, they are not a bad one. Their poor record over the last several weeks is more an indication of a brutal schedule than anything else, evinced by a 7-4 record against the spread. They play good teams close, and more often than not, they win the games they are supposed to.

Which brings us to today’s matchup with the Wolves, a game that Boston should still be capable of handling comfortably, even without Tatum. Minnesota is down at least two of its big three, with Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell in protocols, joining rotation players Patrick Beverly and Jarred Vanderbilt. Anthony Edwards entered protocols on December 17, so there’s a chance he’s available, but either way, the Wolves will be far from whole.

And yet, Minnesota should not be counted out. They have defied expectations in both directions all season long, alternating extended stretches of euphoria and hopelessness almost regardless of who is or is not available. They’re coming off a game in Utah (in which Russell was available, granted) where they played the Jazz tough and covered a 15-point spread, but before that, lost outright to a Mavs team missing essentially all of its starters even with Towns in uniform. Before that? They’d won and covered four straight, which itself came after a five-game losing streak. Again: this team has not been easy to figure out.

Ultimately this comes down to how much confidence you have in the Celtics’ ability to withstand the loss of their star. With Tatum, they probably should have beaten a healthy Bucks team on Christmas, only for Giannis to come up big in the end. Even without him, they’re the bet here. Give the points on the road.

Minnesota Timberwolves vs Boston Celtics Pick

Los Angeles Clippers vs Brooklyn Nets

Clippers vs Nets Odds

Like clockwork, there will come a point in every NBA season where James Harden reminds you just how good he really is.

It happened almost every season he was in Houston, and resulted in one MVP win and four other top-three finishes. Then last season in Brooklyn, there was a roughly month-long stretch when it appeared he’d be in the running for the award yet again, propping up the Nets when they were missing Kevin Durant.

Now, Durant is down again, and Harden seems to be warming up. While the 25 & 10 he’s put up over his last 15 games is impressive, the key for Harden is that he’s once again getting to the line at will, averaging 10 trips to the line in that span after getting there just over seven times a night in his first dozen games (an average that was bolstered by one game in which he took 19 free throws).

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Now Brooklyn, fresh off what was at times a dominant performance against the Lakers, stay in LA to face a Clippers team that is without Paul George and just lost to the Nuggets last night. They are feisty even without their star but have still lost four of five, with the only W coming against the Kings, which should count as half a win given how things are going in Sacramento.

Bet on the Beard to continue his mid-season dominance and give the points on the road.

Los Angeles Clippers vs Brooklyn Nets Pick

Article Author

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NBA

Dean of Knicks Film School, host: KFS Pod, co-host: Pick N Pod. There isn't much about Knicks basketball that Jonathan doesn't know and he's here to break down the big games each and every week.

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