Team Records: Minnesota (20-35) at Portland (26-31)
Game Info: 7 p.m., TV on KGW, Radio on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM
Vegas Line: Portland -10
Refs: Michael Smith, David Guthrie, Scott Twardoski
The Skinny: Fresh off a tough loss to the Nuggets at home Thursday, the Blazers look for the four game sweep of division rival Minnesota Saturday at home. The injury-riddled Wolves are headed to a ninth-straight season without a playoff appearance while Portland’s playoff dreams have fallen hard upon the shores of reality as of late. This game will mark the return of sorts of Brandon Roy, who, although having not played since early in the season, will sit behind Minnesota’s bench Saturday night.
Last Time They Met: The Blazers took a big lead through three and held on as Minnesota made a late charge. Aldridge came up big in the win, notching a game high 25 points and 13 rebounds, including what turned out to be the game winner with 27 seconds left.
Projected Timberwolves Lineup:
PF: Derrick Williams (Arizona 2nd Season) – 10.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG, .4 APG
SF: Dante Cunningham (Villanova, 4th Season) – 8 PPG, 5.1 RPG, .8 APG
C: Nikola Pekovic (Montenegro, 3rd Season) – 15.9 PPG, 8.8 RPG, .9 APG
SG: Luke Ridnour (Oregon, 10th Season) – 12.3 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 3.9 APG
PG: Ricky Rubio (Spain, 2nd Season) – 8.4 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 7 APG
Player to Watch: Derrick Williams (pictured at right) – Here’s the deal with David Kahn’s draft picks. If they happen to be Europeans, such as Rubio, they succeed but if they are American players, they fail, and often fail badly (see Wesley Johnson and Johnny Flynn). At least in the case of Derrick Williams, as much as he’s struggled, he isn’t as bad as either of those players. Williams is a versatile player who is a bit of tweener, not quite big enough to be a PF but not small enough be a SF. He had a reputation in college as a good pick and pop shooter but that hasn’t translated well to the NBA, where he too often throws up brick after brick. Still, if he can ever get it going on offense he could be a legitimate NBA player, if not the star many thought he might once be.
Did You Know?: Only 7 players who began last season on the Wolves are still on their roster today. Their longest tenured player is Kevin Love and their oldest are Luke Ridnour and Andrei Kirilenko.
Song of the Day: “Kahnn” from Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Kahn. Okay its not a song per say but anyone who knows the Wolves can’t help using this clip once per season. Enjoy:
Portland: Out – SG Elliott Williams (Achilles).
Minnesota: Out-SF Chase Buddinger (Meniscus), SG Brandon Roy (Knee), SG Malcolm Lee (Knee), PF Kevin Love (Hand), Doubtful-PF Andrei Kirilenko (Calf), Questionable-C Nikola Pekovic (Abdominal Strain).
Re-Evaluating Minnesota: What Brandon Roy Meant to Me
Many of you that know me know that I am a huge Ducks fan beyond being an even and far bigger Blazers fan. So for me this next statement is something I never thought I’d write: Brandon Roy, a Washington Husky, is perhaps my favorite Blazers player of all time and I cried when he announced his retirement. I was in the RG the night Roy began his amazing legacy of ridiculous game winners by hitting the miracle shot over Houston, I was there when he made his triumphant return in Phoenix and I was watching from vacation in Spain during that magical game four against Dallas (during which I tweeted “If Roy pulls this off, I may run naked screaming through the streets of Sevilla”, which I did not actually do). Yet for all those magical moments, what Roy meant to me and what I suspect he meant to lots of us is a reawakening of our Blazer fandom. During my time in college, I had lost faith with the Blazers and although still a fan, I admit I lost my passion. Roy changed that for me and reminded me once again why I love rooting for our beloved Blazers. Those five short years of Roy changed my view on Blazer fandom forever. Thanks Brandon, for all the memories.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They do a good job defending the 3 point line. Without Love, Minnesota mainly is able to win or stay close in games because they make a lot of 3s. If Portland can limit that, they should win.
Minnesota wins if: They hold Portland under 90 points. This Wolves team doesn’t have a great, or even good, offense but if they can keep Portland in check (not unreasonable given the team’s noted offensive struggles on the road), they should win this.