by Chris Arena, sportsinsights.com
I would be remiss if I didn't analyze the Timberwolves after Al Jefferson's season-ending ACL injury. Until the injury, the young big man was making Kevin McHale look pretty good, and that is not an easy feat. So what happens when you take a bad team and remove it's best player? I'd like to defer to one of my favorite sports cliches: "If we can lose with you, we can certainly lose without you."
First, let me say that I am aware that the Timberwolves had won 10 of 14 January games, but they have lost five of six February games, and only one of those losses was without Jefferson. Additionally, their 10 wins in January were not exactly what I would consider "quality wins." In fact, they only beat two teams with a winning record: New Orleans (without David West or Tyson Chandler) and the Phoenix Suns (by two points). Their true colors have started shining through against a tougher February schedule, and it's safe to say that their January record was more mirage than trend.
That's my objective view. We know that the general public, however, is not usually objective. Lucky for us, much has been made on "Sportscenter" of Minnesota's unbelievable "turn around" and the highly unfortunate timing of "Baby Al"'s injury. This may lead the casual sports bettor to overestimate the drop in quality the Timberwolves will experience as a result of the loss of Jefferson. He was (and is) an outstanding player, but he was never doing all that much to help the T-Wolves win, and Minnesota is actually quite lucky to have depth at the forward position, greatly diminishing the impact of his injury. Kevin Love has proven to be a capable rebounder, if nothing else, and will slide into the starting lineup in Jefferson's place. Ryan Gomes, another part of the Kevin Garnett deal, has shown to be a competent scorer and should make up for most of the scoring load that Jefferson was bearing. Add to the mix that Randy Foye, a highly-touted (and mostly underperforming) young player, will now have every opportunity to assert himself more as a team leader, and I think the actual impact of Jefferson's injury is marginal.
Keep an eye on our live odds page, and if you see Minnesota coming out as an even bigger dog than it was before the Jefferson injury, it may not be a bad idea to take the points and the over.
I wanted to touch on Indiana briefly this week after receiving a thought-provoking email from a reader named Jeff. Jeff wanted me to talk about the Pacers but I responded that there wasn't much to say: they play historically bad defense, their best players are constant injury risks, and I wouldn't touch them with a rival's bank roll. Well, maybe some rivals...
Jeff made an interesting observation, though, one that I hadn't realized and I wanted to put it out there for the rest of my readers. The Pacers have a habit of playing to their opponent; in fact, it's almost scary how formulaic they are. Take a look at their February schedule thus far:
Tue 03 vs Minnesota L 111-116
Thu 05 @ Philadelphia L 94-99
Fri 06 vs Orlando W 107-102
Sun 08 @ Washington L 117-119
Tue 10 vs Cleveland W 96-95
Wed 11 @ Milwaukee L 110-122
If you knew before hand that Indiana would be 2-4 after six games, what would the odds have been that Orlando and Cleveland would be those wins? 50:1? 100:1? Interesting stuff, but is this something you can use in the future? Sure, if you can stomach wagering on Indiana in the first place, that is. My recommendation is to take advantage of the nice underdog lines Indiana usually gets against the better teams in the league, and avoid them like the plague as favorites against teams they "should beat." That said, with Indiana's constantly-dwindling playoff chances and the iffy status of Danny Granger's knee, I still can't truly recommend wagering on Indiana very often. In fact, the only time I would really recommend the Pacers is if they come in as a Smart Money or Steam Move play to our Premium Pro members, and even then my hand would be shaking as I placed the bet!
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