Team Records: Minnesota (27-28) at Portland (37-18)
Game Info: 6 p.m., TV on CSNNW, Radio on 620 AM
Vegas Line: Portland -4
Refs: Ken Mauer, John Goble, Derek Richardson
The Skinny: Fresh off a much needed win over the Jazz Friday night, the Blazers finish out their three-game home-stand against the division rival Wolves in the final regular season matchup between the two teams. Minnesota has been shorthanded as of late, down multiple starters but has won three in a row coming in. They will be no easy matchup, especially for the short-handed Blazers.
Last Time They Met: The Blazers almost let a game against the Kevin Love-less Wolves get away from them as they came back from 8 down in the third to secure a road win in Minnesota. Wesley Matthews scored 13 of his 21 in the fourth to lead Portland to the victory.
Projected Timberwolves Lineup:
PF: Dante Cunningham (Villanova, 5th Season) – 5.6 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1 APG
SF: Corey Brewer (Florida, 7th Season) – 11.6 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 1.6 APG
C: Kevin Love (UCLA, 6th Season) – 26.2 PPG, 13.3 RPG, 3.9 APG
SG: Chase Buddinger (Arizona, 5th Season) – 6.1 PPG, 2.3 RPG, .8 APG
PG: Ricky Rubio (Spain, 3rd season) – 8.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 8.5 APG
Player to Watch: Chase Buddinger (pictured at right) – Occasionally in the second round you find a player that slips through the cracks and is a legit NBA contributor. Such is the case for Buddinger, who was selected 44th overall in the 2009 draft, interestingly one pick after Marcus Thornton, himself a solid NBA player. Buddinger when he’s right can score in bunches but since his injury last season, he has looked, to be charitable, rusty in his 23 games so far this season. Time will tell if Buddinger can recover the form that saw him be a solid off the bench scorer for Houston a few seasons ago and Minnesota must hope he does since they certainly need a solid bench player if they have any hope of making a playoff push.
Did You Know?: Minnesota has had seven first round picks since the 2009 draft. Only one of those seven players they drafted (Ricky Rubio) is still with the Wolves.
Song of the Day: “The Bobsled Song” by the Sidney Mills & Jon Notar with Groove Guild. In honor of the conclusion of the 2014 Winter Olympics on Sunday today’s song is a viral hit based on the 2014 Jamaican Bobsled team. Enjoy:
Portland: Out-PF/C Joel Freeland (Knee), C Meyers Leonard (Ankle), PF LaMarcus Aldridge (Groin)
Minnesota: Out-C Nikola Pekovic (Ankle), C Ronny Turiaf (Knee), SG Kevin Martin (Thumb)
Re-Evaluating Minnesota: Another Lost Season
At this point, the Wolves are sitting six games out of the playoffs, probably too much to hope for any sort of late season burst unless they go on a tear and Dallas, Golden State or Phoenix completely fall apart. There are many reasons why this will be Minnesota’s tenth straight season without making the playoffs, injuries, a truly horrible job drafting and just plain bad luck (Minnesota would probably be in the playoff hunt if they had merely average results in close games this season). Yet, in the end it doesn’t much matter, the Wolves are going to miss the playoffs again and odds are Kevin Love looks for an exit door as soon as possible. Wherever he ends up, the Wolves will be much worse off since he is by far and away their best player. To riff on an old classic song, it may not be that all you need is Love for Minnesota but without Love they don’t have much else.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They make someone other than Love beat them. It sounds odd but the key to beating the Wolves is not stopping Love, he will do whatever he does, but keeping others from having good nights. If they do, they should win.
Minnesota wins if: They play a complete game. The Wolves have been known this year to have long lapse in concentration where they fall behind and then have to climb back into the game. They can’t afford this Sunday if they want to win.