Team Records: Portland (22-4) at Minnesota (12-130
Game Info: 5 p.m., TV on CSNNW, Radio on 620 AM
Vegas Line: Minnesota -2
Refs: Bennett Salvatore, Sean Corbin, Ben Taylor
The Skinny: Fresh off a second straight Dame winner, the Blazers head to Minnesota as they look to complete their second perfect four-game road trip of the year. As with Tuesday night in Cleveland, it is a marquee match-up of two of the best at their position as top PFs Love and Aldridge face off. The Wolves come in off a loss in Boston and have been up and down this year, looking very much like an average team so far.
Last Season: The Blazers swept the season series 4-0. Portland has won 21 of the last 23 overall against the Wolves.
Projected Timberwolves Lineup:
PF: Kevin Love (UCLA, 6th Season) – 25 PPG, 13.6 RPG, 4 APG
SF: Robbie Hummel (Purdue, Rookie) – 3.5 PPG, 2.9 RPG, .4 APG
C: Nikola Pekovic (Montenegro, 4th season) – 16 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 1 APG
SG: Corey Brewer (Florida, 7th Season) – 12.9 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 1.4 APG
PG: Ricky Rubio (Spain, 3rd season) – 9.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 8 APG
Player to Watch: Kevin Love (pictured at right) – There is almost certainly no more gifted rebounder in the league today than Kevin Love. Love vacuums up boards and is equally effective on both the offensive and defensive glass. Yet, there is more to Love than simply rebounding. Love has a very effective jump shot and can make 3s at a fairly decent clip as well. Love has also turned into a decent passer this season, nearly doubling his career assist rate, impressive for a player at his position. The biggest downside for Love is his health. Every season except his first Love has missed significant time with a myriad of injuries. Here’s hoping he’s finally healthy and stays that way for years to come.
Did You Know?: The Blazers have tied the team’s best start to the season on the road at 12-2. That record was initially set by the 90-91 Blazers, coached by none other than current Wolves coach Rick Adelman.
Song of the Day: “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys in honor of Kevin Love”s uncle, and Beach Boys founding member, Mike Love:
Portland: Out – PG CJ McCollum (Foot)
Minnesota: Out-SF Chase Buddinger (Meniscus), C Ronny Turiaf (Elbow), Questionable-SG Kevin Martin (Knee), PF Dante Cunningham (Ankle)
The good news for the Wolves so far this year is that they have avoided any additional serious injuries to key players. That isn’t to say they have escaped the injury bug that has haunted them the past several years, as you can see from the injury report above, but they are far less effected by it. Minnesota is a fun team to watch when they are flowing on offense, a fast-paced fairly efficient offense that doesn’t turn the ball over much and finds the open shooter. The keys to their offense are Love and Rubio. Love’s strengths are well known and Rubio, although an inconsistent, at best, shooter, has an ability to see passing lanes open up and find teammates in ways almost no other PG can dream. Minnesota’s defense is not so good. The Wolves allow a league-worst 47.5% shooting from the floor and allow teams to shoot over 37% from deep as well. What makes it passable is they force a lot of turnovers. When you force the Wolves to defend half court and don’t turn the ball over they can be beaten but if you are sloppy, they can be very effective. They will be a tough foe for Portland Wednesday.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They stop Minnesota’s secondary scorers. Kevin Love is going to score a whole bunch of points and get a whole lot of rebounds, but the Wolves can’t win games with Love alone. If the Blazers can stop Rubio, Pekovic, Barea and their ilk, they should win fairly easily even if Love has a big game.
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 very good chance of winning the first matchup of the year between these division rivals.