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April 15, 2018

There is one pick today. 

Take Minnesota Timberwolves +11.5 spread against Houston Rockets for 3% of the bankroll.

This isn't as big a mismatch as it looks at first glance. The Rockets deserve all the credit in the world for finishing with the best record in the NBA this season and are legitimate. However, the Timberwolves aren't a true #8 seed in our eyes and are a better team than that. They actually were sitting in the top four for most of the season including occupying the 3rd seed for much of the year! Then when Jimmy Butler went down with an injury, the rest of this squad panicked a bit and limped across the finish line, barely making it. 

Their poor finish to the regular season wasn't entirely surprising given that this is a franchise that hadn't made it to the post-season in 14 years! That 14-year playoff drought was the longest active streak among NBA franchises and has finally been snapped. Players got tight and were no longer playing loose in those final games. You could sense the tension in their apprehensive play and nervous body language. Jimmy Butler is a confident composed alpha-male and the undoubted leader of this roster. Even when he's not playing at his best, his mere presence on the floor gives his teammates confidence. In addition, his hard-nosed style of play demands the same from others and all in all, like most good leaders, he makes everyone else around him better. 

Not only is Butler back and playing well but the Wolves are finally in the playoffs after years and are now playing with house money. Going up against the #1 seed and the team that many think will win it all, nobody is expecting anything from Minnesota! That is a point that can't be underestimated. Guys like Teague, Butler, Gibson thrive in the underdog role! They love upsetting the odds and have already been written off at some point earlier in their careers only to surprise everyone. Meanwhile a talent like Karl-Anthony Towns doesn't even view himself as an underdog and plays with a chip on his shoulders. They have the talent offensively to hurt teams inside and outside and don't rely on the 3-point shot as much as Houston does. The Rockets need those shots to fall and they have been for much of the season but on certain nights they won't be and that's when they'll have trouble. Either way, with the T-Wolves having a capable and balanced offense of their own, we believe they can keep up on the scoreboard for the most part.

Butler is Minnesota's best defender and one of the few players that is capable of guarding James Harden. Of course Harden, the likely MVP this year will still get his fair share of buckets and do big damage but if anyone can at least slow him down a bit, it is Butler. The Timberwolves have learned toughness and grittiness from their head coach Tom Thibodeau and have battled all year long. They've been in some tough situations and learned some important lessons along the way. We don't expect them to get past the first round but we do believe they can win a game or two and at the very least put up some competitive efforts. Some expect them to get swept and lose by double-digits but we're not in that camp. The Rockets have all the pressure on them while the Wolves can finally play loose and free. Look for that to make a difference given their level of talent which in our opinion is more like a top 5 seed and not a #8 seed. The value is with the generous amount of points in this matchup and we'll gladly take them.

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