NBA Lock Of The Season: Thunder Will Beat Timberwolves
The NBA's regular season comes to end on Wednesday night with the playoffs starting this weekend. Will the Oklahoma City Thunder be in the postseason? That depends on their result on Wednesday night at the Minnesota Timberwolves. There are very few things that are locks in terms of sports betting but this game is: The Thunder will win because they must to reach the playoffs and because a loss assures Minnesota the best chance to win next month's draft lottery. There is no opening line as of yet because the Timberwolves have several injury questions.
Win & In For Pelicans
The scenario for Wednesday is simple. If New Orleans beats visiting San Antonio, which has won 11 straight games and would clinch the No. 2 seed with one more, then the Pelicans will be the No. 8 seed and face (lose to) Golden State in the first round of the West playoffs. The Pelicans would still get in with a loss and Thunder loss but barring a Russell Westbrook injury it seems impossible that the Wolves do win. They are one game ahead of the Knicks for the league's worst record. Should the Wolves win and Knicks lose at home to Detroit, then New York would get the most ping-pong balls for the draft lottery.
As a subplot to Wednesday's game, Russell Westbrook will look to secure his first ever scoring title. Should he accomplish the feat, Westbrook and Kevin Durant would become the first pair of teammates to win back-to-back scoring titles since Paul Arizin and Neil Johnston of the Philadelphia Warriors accomplished the feat during the 1951-52 and 1952-53 seasons.
Houston's James Harden is Westbrook's chief pursuer; Harden had 26 points Monday night in Houston's 100-90 victory at Charlotte. Harden now is averaging 27.513 points a game. The NBA determines scoring champs via points per game, provided a player meets the minimum requirement of games played, which Westbrook has, despite missing 15 games.
If Westbrook plays and goes scoreless at Minnesota on Wednesday night, Harden would need to score 35 points against Utah in Houston. If Westbrook scores, say, 30 points, Harden would need to score 69 points to win the title. If Westbrook doesn't play, for some reason, Harden still would need to score 69 points to surpass Westbrook's 28.015.
Minnesota Missing Several Players
The Wolves have lost 11 straight and half their roster is out injured. Guard Ricky Rubio has missed the past 14 contests due to a sore left ankle, and underwent arthroscopic surgery on Monday. Center Gorgui Dieng has missed the past eight games with concussion-like symptoms, having been injured Mar. 29 at New Orleans. He will not play in this game. Guard Kevin Martin missed Monday's game vs. New Orleans due to illness, and is listed as questionable for this one. Forward Kevin Garnett is listed as doubtful (thus it could be his final game in uniform as the future Hall of Famer is likely to retire). Forward Shabazz Muhammad is out for the season. So is center NIkola Pekovic.
The Wolves are 0-3 against the Thunder this season, losing each by at least eight points. Oklahoma City has gone 20-3 in the teams' past 23 meetings overall. However, Minnesota is 3-2 at Target Center in the last three seasons.
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