Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Utah Jazz
Friday, December 31, 2021 – 09:00 PM EST at Vivint Arena
The Minnesota Timberwolves did us dirty. One day after beating the Boston Celtics 108-103 as 5-point home dogs, the Timberwolves hosted the New York Knicks (–5.5), who are all kinds of bad, so of course, we had Minnesota in Tuesday’s NBA picks. And of course, they lost 96-88. It was the right pick, though: The Wolves shot 7-of-38 from downtown or 18.4 percent. That’s not normal.
Maybe they’ll get it done this Friday when they visit the Utah Jazz. We already know Mike Conley (rest) won’t play for Utah; the key is Donovan Mitchell, who missed their last two games with a strained lower back. Will Mitchell suit up for this one? The NBA odds are on hold until more is known, so we’re going to outline two different betting scenarios, one for if Mitchell plays and one for if he doesn’t.
Mitchell Plays: Take Minnesota
Mitchell has been one of the more over-rated players in the league since he made his debut in 2017. He’s still young, though, and you can see his development over time, at least on the offensive end; Mitchell’s plus-4.3 Box Plus/Minus at Basketball Reference the past two seasons is a definite step up from his first three years as a pro.
That sore back, though. Mitchell was clearly not himself on Christmas Day when the Jazz hosted the Dallas Mavericks, and while he scored a team-high 33 points, it was on 11-of-26 shooting.
Utah’s bench (Jordan Clarkson in particular) bailed them out and secured the 120-116 victory, but the Jazz didn’t come close to covering as 13.5-point favorites. This was after beating Minnesota 128-116 as 15.5-point home faves, in a less ugly performance for Mitchell (10-of-20 for 28 points).
Mitchell Sits: Take the Under
While Mitchell is now a deserving All-Star shooter – at least when he reins in those volume tendencies – his defense has actually slipped the past couple of years. Clarkson (minus-0.9 BPM) is even worse at that end, but the drop-off in offense more than makes up for it, and we should see plenty of Clarkson this Friday if both Mitchell and Conley are out of the mix.
We should also see more of Joe Ingles, a quality 3-and-D wingman, although he’s listed as questionable with a strained back of his own. The Jazz host the Golden State Warriors on Saturday, which is why Conley is resting; if they sit Ingles (39.6 percent from long range) too, that will help the Wolves against the spread, and it should help our cause as well, although not as much.
Ideally, there will be a morning shoot-around to help us figure out who’s going to play Friday, but at least some of those warm-ups have gotten canceled during this latest phase of the pandemic. Oh well. Wait as long as you can to see what’s up with Mitchell, bet accordingly to cash out at the top-rated books, and may the sphere be with you in the New Year.
*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.