The Daily Sweat: The Timberwolves can creep above .500 with a win over the Grizzlies

The Minnesota Timberwolves have a shot to get above .500 on Friday night.

The Wolves are 2.5-point underdogs at home to the Memphis Grizzlies (7:30 p.m. ET, NBATV) as they look to have a winning record for the first time since mid-December.

Minnesota is currently 25-25 and hasn’t been above .500 since it was 16-15 after beating Dallas on Dec. 19. The Wolves’ big offseason acquisition of Rudy Gobert hasn’t paid immediate dividends and the team is currently without Karl-Anthony Towns.

But the Wolves are playing better basketball since 2023 began. Minnesota ended the year on a six-game losing streak that dropped the team to 16-21. Since then, Minnesota is 9-4 and has wins over the Nuggets, Clippers and Cavaliers along with a nine-point win over the Pelicans on Wednesday.

There have still been a couple of frustrating losses in that span, however. The Wolves lost by 17 to Detroit on Jan. 11 and lost by five to the Rockets on Monday. But things are looking up as Anthony Edwards takes over as the team’s lead scorer. Edwards had 37 points in 37 minutes against the Pelicans and Gobert had 17 points and 12 rebounds. The absence of Towns has led to some better floor spacing and a chance for Edwards to be more assertive.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JANUARY 13: Rudy Gobert #27 and Anthony Edwards #1 of the Minnesota Timberwolves interact in the fourth quarter of the game against the Phoenix Suns at Target Center on January 13, 2022 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Timberwolves defeated the Suns 121-116. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
The Minnesota Timberwolves can move to 26-25 with a win over the Grizzlies on Friday. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)

The January run has put Minnesota in the thick of the playoff race and in second in the Northwest Division standings. The Denver Nuggets have basically put the division title race to bed with a 9.5-game lead over Minnesota, but the other four teams are separated by just a game.

That divisional parity is reflective of the parity throughout the West. Denver is 2.5 games ahead of Memphis for the top spot in the conference while the Kings are six games back in third. The Pelicans occupy the fourth spot eight games back of the Nuggets while the Lakers are 11 games back of the Nuggets … and in 13th in the West.

Yeah, there are 10 teams in the West within three games of each other past the midway point of the season. The difference between making the playoffs and getting a lottery pick is going to come down to a handful of moments across the season.

A win over Memphis will be significant for the Wolves’ playoff chances, even if it feels weird to say that in late January. And there may be no better time to play the Grizzlies. Memphis enters Friday night’s game on a four-game road losing streak and center Steven Adams is sidelined with a knee injury. Will Gobert be able to take advantage of Adams’ absence in the paint?

Other NBA action

There are a total of five NBA games on Friday night. The Oklahoma City Thunder are 1.5-point favorites at home against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Thunder are an NBA-best 30-17-1 against the spread this season and Cleveland is entering the second game of a road back-to-back. The Cavs played at Houston on Thursday night and haven’t been shy about resting players in these types of situations. Watch this line closely.

The Warriors are 5.5-point favorites at home against the Toronto Raptors and the Bucks are 8.5-point favorites on the road against a Pacers team that is still without Tyrese Haliburton.

Round 3 at Torrey Pines

The NFL’s championship game weekend has pushed the Farmers Insurance Open up a day for the second consecutive season, so the third round at Torrey Pines begins on Friday.

Sam Ryder (-12) has a three-shot lead over Brendan Steele and is the clear favorite to win the tournament at +350. Steele is at +650 while Jon Rahm is at +700 despite flirting with missing the cut on Friday before a heater on the South Course back nine got him to 4-under.

Max Homa is also at +700 to win the tournament and is at -6.

One ranked team playing Friday night

There’s just one top 25 men’s college basketball team in action on Friday. The No. 25 New Mexico Lobos host Air Force and are 12.5-point favorites over the Falcons. New Mexico is 18-3 overall and 5-3 in the Mountain West while Air Force is 3-5 in the conference. New Mexico enters the game after losing 97-94 to Nevada in double-overtime on Tuesday.

Who cashed tickets Thursday?

The Knicks got a 120-117 overtime road win over the Celtics on Friday night, and the Pistons beat the Nets 130-122 on the road thanks to a monster third quarter. The Cavs covered easily against the Rockets after outscoring Houston by 26 in the first half, and the Mavericks beat the Suns 99-95 despite Luka Doncic leaving the game because of a sprained ankle.

No. 1 Purdue pushed against Michigan in a 75-70 road win over the Wolverines, and Washington State got a half-point cover as a 5.5-point underdog in a 63-58 home loss to No. 6 Arizona.