Team Records: Portland (17-15) at Minnesota (15-14)
Game Info: 5 p.m., TV on CSNNW, Radio on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM
Vegas Line: Minnesota -6.5
Refs: Danny Crawford, Dick Bavetta, Kevin Fehr
The Skinny: Fresh off an impressive road win in Memphis Friday night, the Blazers look to secure a winning road trip against division rival Minnesota. Portland will look to avoid a repeat of their Wednesday performance against the Raptors, wherein they fell apart after a big road win in NY the previous night. Minnesota comes into this game fresh off a road win in Denver two nights ago, although one which led to another injury to Kevin Love, although thankfully this time it appears to be very minor.
Last Time They Met: Wesley Matthews scored 30 and Lillard added 28 as the Blazers rolled to a fairly easy win over the Wolves the day after Thanksgiving.
Projected Timberwolves Lineup:
PF: Kevin Love (UCLA, 5th Season) – 18.3 PPG, 14 RPG, 2.3 APG
SF: Andrei Kirilenko (Russia, 11th season) – 13.3 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 3.1 APG
C: Nikola Pekovic (Montenegro, 3rd season) – 15.7 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 1.1 APG
SG: Alexey Shved (Russia, Rookie) – 11.1 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 4.6 APG
PG: Luke Ridnour (Oregon, 10th season) – 11.3 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 4.2 APG
Player to Watch: Alexey Shved (pictured at right) – For all the busts David Kahn has had with American players, he has seemingly hit the mark every time with his European moves. Shved is another such find. Alexey is a long-handed combo guard who is fluid to watch on offense and can hit from almost any distance. Although he has struggled with his shot at times this season, there is no doubt he is capable of getting hot at any time. Shved is also a good rebounder for his size but that is about all he does well on defense. For now, he is a one-dimensional offensive player, but given that he is only 24, there is still plenty of time and reason to believe he’ll learn how to play at least passable defense at this level.
Did You Know?: Minnesota’s head coach Rick Adelman is 8th on the NBA’s all-time coaching wins list and second among active coaches behind Denver’s George Karl.
Song of the Day: “Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan. One of the greatest American singers of all time, Dylan is a Duluth, MN native. Enjoy:
Portland: Out – SG Elliott Williams (Achilles), C Meyers Leonard (Ankle).
Minnesota: Out-SF Chase Buddinger (Meniscus), SG Brandon Roy (Knee), SG Malcolm Lee (Knee), Questionable- PG Ricky Rubio (Back), PF Kevin Love (Hand).
Re-Evaluating Minnesota: On Injury Curses
For many Portland fans, it has seemed too often that the team had been the victim of something of an injury curse before this season, with players dropping left and right and fans trying anything to break this trend. Well, that curse seems to have passed to the Wolves this season, as they have lost a grand total of 105 player games due to injury so far this season. It is frankly pretty spectacular that they are anywhere near .500, what with all the lineup juggling Coach Adelman has had to do. Yet, maybe it isn’t an injury curse at all, maybe it is just that Minnesota has players that are injury prone. Forget Brandon Roy, we all know about his injury history, but Kevin Love has suffered a major injury every season of his career except one, Malcolm Lee had meniscus surgery before his rookie year and Ricky Rubio has been struggling with knee injuries since last season. This is not to say that injury curses, or curses in general, don’t exist, but rather that maybe it makes more sense to consider that the players that get hurt have a tendency to do so. In any case, something to consider going forward.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They win the rebounding battle. If Kevin Love plays, the Wolves are a very good rebounding team. If the Blazers can win this battle, or even just keep it close, they should prevail.
Minnesota wins if: They hold Portland under 100 points. This Blazers team scores points, this Wolves team struggles to. If the Wolves can keep the Blazers fans from walking out of the building with free chalupa coupons, they stand an excellent chance of winning.