The Midseason Improving Minnesota Timberwolves Defense

by Team Del Genio

We saw a nice opportunity with an under in the NBA on Monday in the Western Conference showdown between Sacramento and Minnesota. 

The oddsmakers had installed the over/under in the high-230s between these two teams despite the Timberwolves upsetting the Kings two days earlier, 117-110, as a 3-point underdog with only 227 combined points scored. Considering that Sacramento led the NBA in offensive rating and Minnesota ranked 11th in that category this month going into the game, it was understandable why bettors expect a higher-scoring game in this rematch. Yet perhaps these bettors should be paying closer attention to the improved play of the Timberwolves on the defensive end of the court. 

Minnesota ranked twelfth in the league in defensive rating going into that game, yet they ranked eighth in defensive rating in January. They had the second-best defensive rating in the NBA in their last five games as they have held those five opponents to 107.8 points per game on 45.4% shooting from the field. The Timberwolves were allowing 115.0 points per game on 46.6% shooting this season, yet those numbers should be considered with the fast tempo that the team likes to play. Minnesota ranked sixth in the NBA in pace, and they had the second most possessions in the league. They had held their three opponents (and four of their last five opponents) to 110 or fewer points, which is a very nice number when eight of their last nine games have had the oddsmakers install the over/under in the 230s. The Timberwolves had played thirteen of their last seventeen games under the number after winning their previous game at home, and they had played five of their last six games under the total when they had won five or more games in a row. It was Minnesota’s eighth game in their last fourteen days, and they had played nine of their last twelve games under the number when playing for the eighth or more time in the last two weeks. The 117 points they scored on Saturday was the most they scored in five games. They were getting all this done without Karl-Anthony Towns who is still out with a right calf injury. Minnesota had played four straight unders against teams with a winning record. They had played eleven of their last seventeen games when the oddsmakers install them as an underdog of up to three points or as a favorite of up to three points. 

The Timberwolves improved play on defense came through for us. While Sacramento is third in the NBA with a 49.3% field goal percentage, Minnesota held them to 47% shooting from the field including a subpar 9 of 30, 30%, shooting clip from 3-point land. The Timberwolves' play on defense was so good that the under survived an overtime session after the game ended with a 103-103 score after regulation time. Fortunately, Minnesota scored only eight points in overtime while the Kings surged with 17 points to win the game, 118-111. With the oddsmakers’ over/under number in the 238.5 range, under tickets remained safe, and we won our NBA Total of the Month. 

Sharp bettors should pay close attention to recent trends since that can expose numbers put out by the oddsmakers that reflect season averages that are dependent on data that may be outdated by improved (or declining) quality of play.

Good luck - TDG.

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