Team Records: Portland (17-4) at Minnesota (4-16)
Game Info: 5 p.m., TV on CSNNW, Radio on 620 AM
Vegas Line: Portland -10.5
Refs: Ron Garretson, Pat Fraher, Tre Maddox
The Skinny: The Blazers travel to Minnesota Wednesday looking for their sixth win in a row against the shorthanded Wolves. Minnesota has lost six straight and has only truly been close in one of those six games (an OT loss to Houston). The Wolves have five players out with injuries tonight, including three projected starters.
Last Time They Met: The Blazers overcame a slow start and rolled to a fairly easy win as LMA had 26 points and 15 rebounds to pace the Blazers to a 107-93 victory.
Projected Timberwolves Lineup:
PF: Thaddeus Young (Georgia Tech, 8th Season) – 13.9 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 1.8 APG
SF: Andrew Wiggins (Kansas, Rookie) – 11.9 PPG, 3.6 RPG, .1.3 APG
C: Gorgui Deng (Louisville, 2nd season) – 8.6 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 2 APG
SG: Corey Brewer (Florida, 8th Season) – 10.36 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 1.8 APG
PG: Zach LaVine (UCLA, Rookie) – 8.9 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 3.1 APG
Player to Watch: Zach LaVine (pictured at right) – When your team isn’t very good, its a good idea to have some fun players who can do entertaining things. Zach LaVine is such a player. LaVine has incredible athleticism, with a 41.5 inch vertical and the ability to throw down dunks with ferocity. There appears to be plenty of talent in this long-term project, and its a good thing that the Wolves have the time to devote to his development. LaVine could be a good player, he has a decent jump shooting motion, but he needs time to learn how to properly set up teammates as well as play offense out of the half court, rather than just on fast breaks. Defensively, LaVine is not highly rated but maybe if he can develop his offense it won’t matter as much. He’s not going to be a star but LaVine certainly has the talent to be a fun rotation player.
Did You Know?: Minnesota has currently lost six in a row at home, two games short of their longest home losing streak in franchise history.
Song of the Day: “Pour Me Another” by Atmosphere. The Wolves have already had a bad injury filled year, they certainly could use another drink. Enjoy:
Portland: Out – PG CJ McCollum (Finger)
Minnesota: Out-SG Kevin Martin (Wrist), C Nikola Pekovic (Wrist), PG Ricky Rubio (Ankle), C Ronny Turiaf (Hip), PG Mo Williams (Back)
Re-Evaluating Minnesota: Stuck in NBA Hell
I have often referred to the teams that barely miss the playoffs year after year to be in NBA purgatory, not good enough to make the playoffs but not bad enough to get a top pick. This is not the problem the Wolves have since they haven’t come close to making the playoffs for several years. Instead, every since KG left the Wolves have been in what can more accurately be described as NBA hell. They aren’t very good, their good players leave almost as soon as they have a chance and there is no hope of them being any good anytime soon. To add to their miseries, the Wolves have seen most of their starting lineup go down with injuries this year, turning a below average team into a horrific one. Oh, and they were the first to lose to the Sixers. Put it this way, I have a good friend who does ticket sales for the Wolves and he told me recently “its not easy selling this team, and hasn’t been for years.” Even with Wiggins in town, I would agree with that assessment, as the Wolves remain stuck in NBA hell.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They are focused. This is a bad Minnesota team and the Blazers are at home. Play with focus and Portland should run away with it.
Minnesota wins if: They win the turnover battle decisively. The Blazers should be able to pick Minnesota apart if they play clean ball but if the Wolves can make Portland play sloppy, they stand a chance of winning the second matchup of the year between these division rivals.