- Minnesota is in transition after the firing of head coach Tom Thibodeau, but the team should bring plenty of intensity to its matchup with Oklahoma City tonight.
After kicking off the week with a 2-1 night on Monday, Three at 3 has your best bets for an intriguing slate of Tuesday night NBA games.
1. Washington Wizards at Philadelphia 76ers (-8.5)
7:00 pm ET
The Washington Wizards have played shockingly well without John Wall, going 3-1 and a perfect 4-0 against the spread since the team announced that its star point guard would miss the rest of the season after undergoing surgery on his left heel. Washington's most recent game was its most emphatic win yet, a 116-98 trouncing of the Thunder in Oklahoma City on Sunday, a contest that the Wizards entered as 10-point underdogs. Bradley Beal led the way with 25 points, while Otto Porter Jr. pitched in 20 in only 24 minutes off the bench. Washington has been playing clean team basketball since the Wall announcement, as its assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.63 is the second-best mark among all NBA teams over its last four games.
Nonetheless, Washington is a pretty sizeable road underdog on Tuesday against a talented Sixers team that has won three games in a row. Trends, however, like the Wizards in this spot. Over the last five seasons, road teams with winning percentages between .250 and .400 that are coming off a road win are 54-20 against the spread versus teams with winning records. That trend is 7-1 since the beginning of this season, and the feisty Wizards are an excellent candidate to keep it rolling tonight.
Pick: Wizards +8.5
2. Denver Nuggets at Miami Heat (-1.5)
It's unclear what exactly about Atlanta gives the Heat so much trouble, but Miami has now lost to the lowly Hawks three times this season after an embarrassing 106-82 road defeat (ATL +6.5) on Sunday. The Heat were blown out despite the fact that Atlanta was minus a couple of key players, but that's what will happen when you go 5-of-34 from three-point range (14) and are outrebounded 67 to 52, as Miami was this past weekend.
A silver lining for the Heat is that they've been able to bounce back in the immediate aftermath of their previous Atlanta losses this season, winning 120-115 in Detroit on Nov. 5 (MIA +2.5) and 106-101 over New Orleans on Nov. 30 (MIA +3). They're also 9-5 against the Western Conference this season (10-4 against the spread), and thus appear to be in a strong spot against the Nuggets tonight. Denver will be playing without much rest, heading into the second leg of a road back-to-back after losing 125-113 in Houston last night (HOU -1). Guard Gary Harris had been back only four games for Denver after missing most of December with a hip injury, but left the game for the fourth quarter on Monday with a tight hamstring. His status for Tuesday seems uncertain. And while the Nuggets boasts an excellent 26-12 record, their losses have often compounded themselves: They're only 5-6 this season when coming off a defeat.
Pick: Heat -1.5
3. Minnesota Timberwolves at Oklahoma City Thunder (-8)
Admittedly, it's anyone's guess as to what type of energy the Wolves will play with tonight in their first game under 32-year-old interim head coach Ryan Saunders. There's a chance they could be out of rhythm, but it seems a much more likely prospect that they play with a renewed spirit. After all, there's a reason Tom Thibodeau was fired at such an odd moment in the season. He was generally disliked by the team, organization and fanbase, and Minnesota's players are almost certainly glad to be free of his iron-fisted coaching style—especially those he ran into the ground with excessive minutes on the court.
But even if the Wolves do come out a bit flat, this line feels too high for a team that has won two in a row and five of its last eight. That latter stretch includes a win in Oklahoma City on Dec. 23, when Minnesota won 114-112 as a 6.5-point underdog. The Timberwolves were without starting point guard Jeff Teague in that victory but now have him back in the lineup, giving further reason to believe Minnesota is getting too many points at OKC.
Pick: Timberwolves +8
Overall Record: 94-74-4