NBA Monday: Greg Frank picks Raptors vs Clippers, Mavericks vs Celtics, and  Timberwolves vs Pistons with Blake Griffin making his debut
Detroit Pistons forward Blake Griffin (23) goes to the basket against Dallas Mavericks forward Dorian Finney-Smith (10) during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019, in Detroit.Duane Burleson | Associated Press

NBA Monday: Greg Frank picks Raptors vs Clippers, Mavericks vs Celtics, and Timberwolves vs Pistons with Blake Griffin making his debut

2-0 Sunday, 18-14-1 overall.

Timberwolves (+3) @ Pistons (221)

Pick: Pistons -3

Momentum seems to have dissipated for Minnesota after a 4-1 start. The Timberwolves have since lost three out of four and failed to cover in three of the last four as well. Minnesota battled hard yesterday afternoon at home against Denver but was on the short end of a 100-98 final in overtime. The Timberwolves also needed overtime on Friday against Golden State in a 125-119 victory. Defense has not been a strength for Minnesota out of the gate as the Timberwolves are 24th in opponent points per game giving up a shade under 117 a night. Effort and intensity are often hallmarks of good defensive teams and I’m not sure we’ll see much from the Timberwolves tonight. Considering this is the second leg of a back-to-back for the Timberwolves and third game in four days, and Minnesota played extra time in its last two contests, I expect some tired legs for the Wolves in this one. Then, add in Blake Griffin making his season debut for Detroit and there’s a lot that lines up for the Pistons at home on Monday.

Mavericks (+4) @ Celtics (218.5)

Pick: Celtics -4

Dallas is also playing its third game in four days. The Mavericks have also struggled on the defensive end of the floor. Dallas is 20th in defensive efficiency per and 20th in opponent points per game. Boston and Toronto have been the most impressive teams in the East to start the season and it wouldn’t be surprising to see both stick around all year. Maybe the East is more than just simulating to Philadelphia and Milwaukee in the conference finals. The Celtics have certainly made a strong statement indicating such in the season’s first month. They’ve won seven in a row since losing their season opener to the Sixers. The only concern with backing them here is maybe they let their guard down a little returning home from a three-game road trip. However, the Celtics had a day off to recalibrate yesterday and Brad Stevens is the type of coach we trust to have his team ready to play most nights and therefore avoiding flat spots. There’s a lot of buy signs on Boston early on and while Dallas is still 6-3 in its first nine games, we’re not trusting the Mavericks to stick around for 48 minutes tonight.

Raptors (+10.5) @ Clippers (223)

Pick: Under 223

Toronto is a third team playing for the third time in four days tonight. Though, rather than lay double digits to fade the Raptors, we’ll look to the total and make a case for the under when they take on the Clippers. The Raptors made the statement we thought they would make on Sunday with a 113-104 win against the Lakers as a double-digit underdog. This is the same point spread as last night so either oddsmakers aren’t upgrading the Raptors yet or are overvaluing a back-to-back in which the Raptors play both games in the same building. While Kawhi Leonard returns to Toronto next month, we’d expect the Raptors to be equally as motivated against their former teammate tonight in Los Angeles. We mentioned effort and intensity lending itself to good defense in our Timberwolves-Pistons handicap. Well, we think we get that from both teams tonight and therefore we’ll go under 223.

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