One day remains until the first round of the NBA Playoffs. But first, four teams are squaring off to see who will occupy the final two playoff spots. We’ll be keying in on an all-star big man for one of our favorite NBA props for Friday night’s play-in games.
Tonight’s Western Conference battle will feature the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Oklahoma City Thunder — tipoff is at 9:30 ET. The winner of this contest will move on to face the Denver Nuggets on Sunday night. Minnesota enters as 5-point favorites against a young and hungry Thunder roster, and a loss would feel disastrous for the franchise.
Karl-Anthony Towns is going to have to show up for the T-Wolves to have a shot tonight, especially if Anthony Edwards turns in another underwhelming performance. However, Oklahoma City’s roster is well-suited to make things difficult for KAT.
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NBA Props for Friday (4/14)
Karl-Anthony Towns Under 24.5 Points (-118 @ FanDuel)
Karl-Anthony Towns is one of the most confusing star players we’ve seen in recent NBA history. He’s immensely talented and just wrapped up his 8th season in the league. But, he’s played just 11 career playoff games.
Minnesota limped to a 42-40 finish this season, which marks just the third time the team has had a winning record during KAT”s tenure. In truly catastrophic fashion, he fouled out and scored just 11 points in the team’s play-in tournament appearance against the Clippers last season. Tuesday night’s game didn’t work out as well for the team, as they blew a substantial second-half lead in their loss to the Lakers.
Between a tough matchup tonight (more details to come), KAT’s propensity to get into foul trouble, and Rudy Gobert’s likely return to the lineup, all signs point toward fading the big man.
Despite the lack of a significant interior presence, the Thunder have done well against opposing big men this season. They allowed the 13th fewest points per game to centers this season. Over their last 30 games, this improved to 7th-best in the league.
Dating back to last season, Towns has struggled immensely against head coach Mark Daigneault’s roster. In six meetings with Oklahoma City since 2022, KAT hasn’t topped the 20-point mark.
Even if we adjust KAT’s numbers to tonight’s likely heavy workload in a win-or-go-home situation, the scoring still doesn’t stack up. He averaged 16.0 PPG in 30.7 minutes over these last six OKC matchups, which is just 19.8 points per 38 minutes.
But, it would be foolish to expect KAT to be locked into 38 minutes in any game, especially an important one. Towns averaged 3.8 fouls per game this season, the most in the NBA. He’s not a stranger to sitting due to picking up stupid fouls; the Kentucky product has been top two in the league in fouls per game in 5 of the last 6 seasons. It was a miracle he didn’t foul out of Tuesday night’s game after playing with five fouls for most of the 4th Quarter and Overtime.
The Thunder drew the 10th most fouls this season and could force Towns to the bench for a good chunk of the 2nd half. It’s already hard to score 25-plus points in a postseason game. It’s even harder if you’re playing fewer minutes due to poor defensive decisions.
Rudy Gobert’s Return
Rudy Gobert is expected to return tonight, which hurts Towns’ outlook. He’s only scored at least 25 points in 8 of 27 games with Gobert. His usage rate is just 25.5% with Gobert in the lineup, compared to 27.8 USG% without Rudy over the last two seasons.
Gobert’s presence helps the T-Wolves on the defensive end. But, he clogs the middle of the court when Minnesota runs their half-court offense. Even when seeing at least 36 minutes alongside Gobert, Towns has remained under this line in 6 of 9 games.
The big man has scored more than 24 points just three times in 13 career postseason games. Look for the Thunder to give him trouble tonight.
The Oklahoma City Thunder have had Karl-Anthony Towns’ number in recent meetings. With an inconsistent postseason history, I wouldn’t count on the former first-overall pick to score 25-plus points this evening.
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