The Portland Trail Blazers (35-26) hope to inch closer to the lead in the Northwest Division on Thursday when they host the Minnesota Timberwolves (38-26) as home favorites. The Blazers trail the Timberwolves by 1.5 games in the race for the division crown and have won four straight.

Point spread: The Trail Blazers opened as five-point favorites; the total is at 217.5, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark (line updates and matchup report).

NBA betting pick, via OddsShark computer: 110.4-106.3, Trail Blazers (NBA picks on every game).

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Why the Timberwolves can cover the spread

The Timberwolves remain on track to return to the playoffs for the first time in 13 seasons despite losing leading scorer Jimmy Butler to a knee injury. Butler underwent meniscus surgery and is out indefinitely, forcing a young Minnesota team to grow up quickly and try to rally around his absence.

The Timberwolves have won their last two games without him both straight up and against the spread, with Karl-Anthony Towns averaging 24 points and 15 rebounds in those contests.

Why the Trail Blazers can cover the spread

Portland has gone 3-1 ATS during its winning streak following a 116-99 rout of the Sacramento Kings as a 12.5-point home favorite at sports betting sites on Tuesday. The Blazers got 26 points and 12 assists from Damian Lillard, who should have a distinct advantage in the point guard matchup opposite Minnesota’s Jeff Teague.

Portland won the most recent meeting between the teams 123-114 at home on January 24, easily covering as a 3.5-point favorite. In that game, Lillard outscored Teague 31-15 with six three-pointers.

Smart betting pick

The Timberwolves are fortunate that Butler did not tear his ACL, and they should focus on making the postseason rather than worrying about winning the division at this point. Butler has vowed to return before the playoffs tip off, which would be huge.

However, the Blazers are in much better shape right now and seem poised to overtake them for the division lead. Portland is also 6-1 ATS in the past seven meetings with Minnesota, with the last three at home decided by an average of more than nine points. Look for the Blazers to earn a statement victory here and beat the Timberwolves by double digits to cover the spread, pulling within a half-game of the division lead.

NBA betting trends

Minnesota is 2-6 ATS in its last eight games.

Minnesota is 3-10 ATS in its last 13 games on the road.

Portland is 7-1 ATS in its last eight games at home.

All NBA odds and betting trends courtesy of Bleacher Report’s official odds partner, OddsShark. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line-movement updates and the OddsShark YouTube page for picks and analysis, or download the free odds tracker app.

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