Team Records: Portland (19-19) at Minnesota (20-19)
Game Info: 5 p.m., TV on CSNNW, Radio on 750 the Game
Vegas Line: Minnesota -2
Refs: James Capers, David Jones, Scott Wall
The Skinny: After a much needed win Monday, the Blazers begin their 7 game NCAA road trip (necessitated by Portland hosting the NCAA tournament next week) in Minnesota. They will be looking to avenge perhaps their most painful loss of the season, not because of how the game went but because of what it appeared to mean in a larger picture for this team. If this Blazers team is to make a legitimate playoff push, this is a game they probably have to win.
Last Time They Met: Minnesota controlled the game most of the way and pulled way late for its first win over the Blazers since Kevin Garnett was on the team. Kevin Love was one point short of his career high with 42 points to lead the Wolves.
Projected Timberwolves Lineup:
PF: Kevin Love (UCLA, 4th Season) – 24.5 PPG, 13.7 RPG, 1.9 APG
SF: Wes Johnson (Syracuse, 2nd season) – 5.8 PPG, 2.8 RPG, .8 APG
C: Nikola Pekovic (Montenegro, 2nd season) – 12.4 PPG, 7.2 RPG, .5 APG
SG: Luke Ridnour (Oregon, 9th season) – 11.2 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 3.7 APG
PG: Ricky Rubio (Spain, Rookie) – 10.9 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 8.2 APG
Player to Watch: Luke Ridnour (pictured at right) – Floated in possible trade rumors to Portland in the past few days, the Oregon alum is on a nice roll at the moment. After faltering early in the season and ceding his starting job to Ricky Rubio, he finds himself back in the starting lineup due to Minnesota’s lack of consistent SGs. Ridnour is one of the league’s best at shooting the midrange jumpers and can hit a floater or two as well. He does a decent job on defense, but struggles against bigger players. He also struggles finishing at the rim. Still, he is a decent player and one we could see in a Blazer uniform before long if the rumors are true.
Did You Know?: Rick Adelman has the 8th most wins of any coach in NBA history with 965, ahead of Bill Fitch and behind George Karl.
Song of the Day: “Here’s Where I Stand” from the movie “Camp”-A moving song about someone stating where they are and wanting others to be able to accept that, it seems fitting for both Blazer fans and this team as we both try and accept what this team is and can become in the short to medium term:
Portland: Out – C Greg Oden (knee).
Minnesota: Questionable – C Nikola Pekovic (Foot).
Re-Evaluating Minnesota: Fighting as One
One of the major differences between this team and the Minnesota teams of the past few years is that they seem to actually be playing as, well, a team and not merely a group of individuals seeking to put up big stats (as Kevin Love certainly did at times last year). Especially on defense, they do a nice job communicating and playing at least serviceable defense. On offense, they do a great job rotating the ball to open shooters and thus getting better shots off. If they can keep this up, this team will only grow and this year will be only the beginning of a solid run for Minnesota.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They focus on defense. No NBA team is going to be successful on defense if they don’t communicate and focus. The Blazers certainly didn’t Saturday night, but if they can and thus shut down the myriad of open shots the Wolves got in the last matchup, they should win this.
Minnesota wins if: They dominate second chance points. When Minnesota wins games, they typically get a lot of putbacks by Kevin Love and others. If they do so again Wednesday, they should win this.