The Pacific division leading LA Lakers take on the playoff bubble Minnesota Timberwolves at home tonight at the Staples center. Lets look at the odds on tap for us tonight, as we decide where we should place our NBA picks.

NBA odds boards had opened with the Lakers listed as 8 point favorites and a total 195. Early NBA betting action has since lowered the spread to 7.5, while the total has increased to 197.5 at most shops. 

Lets break down this matchup and decide where we can find the best value with our NBA picks.

Minnesota Timberwolves (22-22 SU, 23-20 ATS)

Kevin LoveThe T-Wolves are coming off a 111-105 overtime defeat at the hands of the Utah Jazz last night and now must travel to face Kobe and company. To add even more woes to the Minnesota entry is the loss of their stellar rookie point guard Ricky Rubio, who tore his ACL against these same Lakers last Friday night in a 105-102 loss as three point home dogs. 

Rubio is lost for the season and his availability for next year is also in doubt. His absence has already been felt as Minnesota has dropped three of their past four games and a late night flight from Utah to Los Angeles will do them no favors. The ‘Wolves have done an admirable job offensively this season averaging over 98 points per game while beating their opponents on the glass, hauling down 44.3 boards per contest, good for 3rd in the NBA.

Power forward Kevin Love has been the team’s main contributor offensively, averaging over 25.7 points and grabbing 13.7 rebounds per game. However it should be noted he was scratched before last Friday’s game against LA with a recurring back spasms. All signs point to his availability tonight as he looked perfectly healthy against the Jazz on Thursday with 25 points and 16 boards. 

Los Angeles Lakers (27-16 SU, 20-22 ATS)

Stalwart point guard Derek Fisher was dealt away at the trade deadline along with Luke Walton, Jason Kapono and a 1st round pick for the highly coveted Ramon Sessions, Christian Eyenga and center Jordan Hill in a three way deal. It will be a new look Lakers team that may be stronger for the playoffs, but for now the new crew must assimilate quickly into the LA system.

While the new arrivals may look good on paper there is certain to be one member of the Lakers who will not be applauding the deal and that would be team captain Kobe Bryant. Bryant has been a long time teammate of Fisher’s and lobbied long and hard to ensure Fisher would be signed after the 2010 season.

Timberwolves vs. LakersWhile this bit of off court drama may seem as though it will have little to do with tonight’s game, it should be noted that the veteran Fisher was a calming influence in the locker room and a respected team leader. His absence coupled with integrating the new players may become a short-term problem that the Pacific division leaders must solve. 

Analysis:

The Lakers have thoroughly dominated the Timberwolves, having defeated Minnesota an astounding 17 straight times and are looking for their fifth consecutive win at the Staples Center. Normally NBA teams on the back end of back to back road contests are a surefire fade but this game is wrought with a plethora of intangibles. Will newcomers Sessions and Jordan be suiting up for the Lakers or will they be dressed in civvies? 

These teams have played each other three times this season with LA winning all three and covering twice and pushing once. It would be easy to dismiss Minnesota, but if you factor in the new faces who, even if they do play, will not be acclimated to their new environment nor their teammates, coupled with their resident All-Star Kobe Bryant who may also be busy sobering up to the reality of his best friend being dealt without even a heads up, this may be a struggle for the Lakers.

There are too many questions surrounding this game to make a big play but if you must back one here, my advice would be to tread cautiously with a small sports betting play on the underdog. 

My Pick: Play Minnesota +8.