Anthony Edwards and the Minnesota Timberwolves (32-14) face Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the Oklahoma City Thunder (32-14) this Monday (1/29/24). Get Timberwolves vs. Thunder moneyline and spread odds, as well as predictions, starting lineups, injuries, and key matchups below.
Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Prediction
If the Thunder could choose their playoff opponent, then Minnesota would arguably be last on the list. That’s because the Wolves have the personnel to exploit their weaknesses and reduce their strengths.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander feasts against quicker, smaller guard defenders due to his size and contact balance. The players that can give him fits are lengthy wings with the footwork and hip flexibility to stay attached on drives. That perfectly describes Jaden McDaniels, who is a hyper-elite defender at 6’11” tall. Nickeil Alexander-Walker also presents a tough matchup for Gilgeous-Alexander, especially since he knows his tricks (they are cousins).
Minnesota can funnel Oklahoma City’s drivers into a forest, as Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert provide excellent rim protection. Due to their defense, Minnesota allows the fifth fewest field goal attempts and lowest field goal percentage within eight feet of the basket (via NBA.com).
Meanwhile, the Thunder rank 29th in opponent offensive rebound rate and dead last in opponent put-back frequency. Gobert and Towns will be a massive threat to grab extra possessions and produce second chance points. This reality reduces Oklahoma City’s margin for error since it forces them to be more efficient on a points per possession basis.
Can Minnesota’s clunky offense scrape together enough points against this elite Thunder defense though? They are 19th in Offensive Rating and struggle mightily to generate advantages out of the pick-and-roll. However, the Wolves own the second best three-point percentage in the NBA, and the Thunder allow the most corner attempts and ninth most wide open three-point attempts per game. Minnesota’s outside shooting will be the X Factor here in terms of them pulling off the upset.
Finally, Oklahoma City is on the second night of a back-to-back and had to travel from Detroit. It’s not a significant edge because their starters didn’t play much, but it’s an edge nonetheless.
Overall, the Timberwolves are a dangerous team for the Thunder, so getting three points is a solid line to take here.
Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Prediction: Timberwolves +3
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Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Best Odds
These teams are tied at the top of the Western Conference, so this matchup has enormous implications for playoff seeding. Oklahoma City is favored by nearly three points; they own a highly profitable 16-6 record against the spread at home. In contrast, the Wolves are merely 11-14 against the spread on the road. These trends were definitely factored into the current line, as well as Mike Conley potentially missing the contest.
For Minnesota’s +116 moneyline to hold a positive expected value, they need to win this game at least 46 percent of the time.
Minnesota Timberwolves Starting Lineup
Oklahoma City Thunder Starting Lineup
Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Injuries
Starting point guard Mike Conley is questionable after missing their last game. If he cannot suit up, then Nickeil Alexander-Walker will once again get the nod. Outside of Conley, both teams will have their full rotation at their disposal. Grab the popcorn!
Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Key Matchups
Karl-Anthony Towns’ Scoring
Of the 78 players with at least 300 drives this season, Towns ranks fourth in points per drive. Jalen Williams and Kenrich Williams will do their best, but they are a touch undersized for the Towns assignment. Chet Holmgren has his hands full trying to hold his position against Rudy Gobert and deter the lob too, so it’s unlikely that he can help. If Towns puts on a shot-making clinic and viciously attacks the rim, then Minnesota’s offense may find a groove here against this tough Thunder defense.
Minnesota turns the ball over at the second highest rate, which is terrifying against a Thunder defense that ranks first in opponent turnover percentage, first in deflections, and second in contested shots. Mike Conley’s absence would only exacerbate the issue too because he’s an effective, cautious ball handler. If the Wolves limit their mistakes, then it would significantly boost their cover chances.