- Detroit is playing the second leg of a back-to-back in Memphis on Wednesday, but are relatively well rested after Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin only played a combined 63 minutes on Tuesday.
Here are Three at 3's top plays for Wednesday night.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves at Boston Celtics (-5.5)
8:00 pm ET
The Celtics have been one of the NBA's best defensive teams over the course of the season, currently ranking fourth in the league with a 104.7 defensive rating. They haven’t played nearly as well on that side of the ball in recent games, however, as Boston's D has posted a defensive rating of 114.1 over the team’s last six contests, which ranks 24th in the league over that stretch. Not coincidentally, that's how long Boston has been without center Aron Baynes, who remains out indefinitely after having fractured his hand against the Suns on Dec. 19.
While Minnesota will be without starting guards Derrick Rose and Jeff Teague—as well as forward Robert Covington, who scored 16 points in Monday’s loss to New Orleans—those absences are offset by the fact that the Celtics will be without leading scorer Kyrie Irving, who suffered a scratched cornea in the team’s New Year’s Eve loss in San Antonio. It’s in the frontcourt, however, where the Timberwolves appear to have their most significant edge against this spread. While Baynes wasn't playing big minutes, he was key to the Celtics' interior defense, and opposing bigs have been able to advantage of his absence. Clint Capela went for 24 points and 19 rebounds in a 127-113 Rockets win last Thursday (BOS -2), and LaMarcus Aldridge dropped 32 on the Celtics in a 120-111 Spurs win on Sunday (BOS -1.5). Minnesota center Karl-Anthony Towns has averaged 31.0 PPG, 18.3 RPG and 4.7 BPG over his last three games, and he’s in a position to continue to dominate on the interior tonight.
Pick: Timberwolves (+5.5)
2. Timberwolves at Celtics (Total: 216)
With Towns at the forefront, plenty of points should be scored in this game on both sides. Both Boston and Minnesota have been playing in higher-scoring games than expected by oddsmakers, with the Celtics having hit the over in six straight games and the Wolves riding a streak of eight straight games that have gone over the total. It’s the absences of Rose, Teague and especially Irving that have contributed to this line being pushed down from an opening number as high as 221.5 in some places. The Wolves, however, have had little trouble scoring (116.6 PPG) in the eight games Teague has missed since injuring his ankle in mid-December. The loss of depth in the backcourt during that stretch, meanwhile, has cost Minnesota defensively (114.2 points allowed per game). It's hard to see the Timberwolves slowing down a Boston offense that has averaged 114.0 points per game in the two previous games this season that Irving has missed, which included a 115-point output against a Utah squad that currently ranks sixth in the NBA with a 105.5 defensive rating.
Pick: Over (216)
3. Detroit Pistons at Memphis Grizzlies (-6)
After a 121-98 road thrashing as a 10-point road underdog against the Bucks last night—a winning pick that was delivered in yesterday’s Three at 3—the Pistons turn around to play in Memphis tonight. But despite Detroit’s poor showing in Milwaukee, there's reason to believe the Pistons are in a much better spot against the Grizzlies. The Bucks play the NBA's sixth-fastest pace at 102.9 possessions per game, a bad matchup for Detroit as evidenced by the fact that they were outscored 20 to 6 on fastbreak points in the loss to Milwaukee. The Pistons will get a far more comfortable matchup against a Memphis team that plays the slowest pace (95.8) in the entire league.
If there’s an encouraging aspect of Detroit’s blowout loss to Milwaukee heading into tonight, it’s that stars Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond played only 33 and 30 minutes, respectively. The Grizzlies are also on the second leg of a back-to-back tonight, and Memphis stars Marc Gasol (36 minutes) and Mike Conley (37) were forced to exert themselves a bit more in a 113-101 loss in Houston, a game in which Memphis was a four-point underdog. While teams playing road back-to-backs are obviously in a challenging spot, struggling teams in that position have tended to be severely undervalued by oddsmakers in recent seasons. Road underdogs that have lost at least three consecutive road games are 25-5 against the spread since the start of 2014-15, which includes a 12-1 ATS mark since the start of the 2016-17 season, on the second night of a back-to-back.
Pick: Pistons +6
Overall Record: 89-67-4