Team Records: Minnesota (25-28) at Portland (24-28)
Game Info:6 p.m., TV on CSNNW, Radio on 750 the Game
Vegas Line: Portland -4
The Skinny: After a heartbreaking loss Friday in LA, the Blazers return home to face the injury ravaged Timberwolves. Since Rubio was lost for the season and Pekovic went not long after that, the Wolves have seen their playoff hopes basically vanish. With no first round pick this year since they traded it a few years back, they have no incentive to tank. Portland will look to avoid being swept by the Wolves for the first time in a long while Sunday.
Last Time They Met: Minnesota won their second in a row vs. the Blazers behind Love and Ridnour as they took the lead early and survived multiple Portland runs to win comfortably in the end.
Projected Timberwolves Lineup:
PF: Derrick Williams (Arizona-Rookie) – 8.8 PPG, 4.9 RPG, .6 APG.
SF: Wes Johnson (Syracuse, 2nd season) – 5.9 PPG, 2.8 RPG, .8 APG
C: Kevin Love (UCLA, 4th Season) – 26.5 PPG, 13.8 RPG, 2 APG
Player to Watch: Kevin Love (pictured at right) – Many, including yours truly, somewhat dismissed Love’s monster numbers last season as a product of being a good player on a bad team. After all, every truly awful team, and Minnesota was such a team, typically has at least one player who puts up deceptively good numbers even though it doesn’t help the team win. Well, I admit it, I was wrong about Love. He has continued to mature into a legitimate MVP candidate this season, and the only reason Minnesota has any success at this point is Love. Love is probably the best rebounder in the game today, equally effective on both the offensive and defensive glass. He is also a great spot up shooter as well as someone who can make and takes a fair number of free throws a game and is deadly from deep (he didn’t win the 3 point contest this year just because of luck after all). Where Love still needs work is defense, he is not a good shot blocker and can sometimes be overwhelmed by bigger players. In addition, Love doesn’t really believe in passing in the ball on offense, although given Minnesota’s other options one can hardly blame him. In the end, Kevin Love is one of the best players in the NBA at this point and should only continue to get better.
Did You Know?: Kevin Love will pass Kevin Garnett for most rebounds in a single season in team history with only 27 more boards this season.
Song of the Day: “Wouldn’t it Be Nice” by the Beach Boys-In honor of Kevin Love’s uncle being a member of this iconic group, I feel like I kind of have to go with a Beach Boys song here. Enjoy:
Portland: Out – SG Elliot Williams (Shoulder), PF Shawne Williams (Foot),
Minnesota: Out- PG JJ Barea (Quad), SF Michael Beasley (Toe), PG Ricky Rubio (Knee), Questionable – C Nikola Pekovic (Ankle).
Re-Evaluating Minnesota: A Failure Not Due to Kahnnnnnnnnnnn
Minnesota in that rarest and arguably worst of circumstances for a likely non-playoff team, with no first round pick (although they might end up with Utah’s via an earlier trade) and thus no incentive to tank even as the season appears lost. Surprisingly, this is not due to a move made by GM David Kahn, commonly mocked for his tendencies to, among other things, draft almost entirely point guards. Instead it comes from a trade made back in 2005, when the Wolves traded Sam Cassell and a future first rounder to the Clippers for Marko Jaric and Lionel Chalmers. That pick was top ten protected through last year’s draft. Since the Wolves have been awful, that pick was never conveyed and is now unprotected. So you see, its not only GM David Kahn that has made bad trades for the Wolves organization.
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 the first two times they played Minnesota. They have to if they want to win Sunday.
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 Sunday, they should win this.