Team Records: Portland (24-23) at Minnesota (18-26)
Game Info: 5 p.m., TV on CSNNW, Radio on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM
Vegas Line: Minnesota -2.5
Refs: Rodney Mott, Brent Barnaky, Tony Brown
The Skinny: Fresh off a come from behind win against Utah Saturday night, Portland begins a season-defining six game road trip against the Wolves. Portland is looking to take advantage of a Minnesota team decimated by injuries. Since the two teams last met, the Wolves have gone 2-11.
Last Time They Met: The Blazers took a big lead through three and held on as Minnesota made a late charge. Portland tied a franchise record with 16 made 3s in the win.
Projected Timberwolves Lineup:
PF: Derrick Williams (Arizona 2nd Season) – 9.3 PPG, 4.5 RPG, .4 APG
SF: Andrei Kirilenko (Russia, 11th Season) – 13.6 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 3.1 APG
C: Nikola Pekovic (Montenegro, 3rd Season) – 15.9 PPG, 8.6 RPG, .9 APG
SG: Luke Ridnour (Oregon, 10th Season) – 11.8 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 4 APG
PG: Ricky Rubio (Spain, 2nd Season) – 5.5 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 5.4 APG
Player to Watch: Ricky Rubio (pictured at right) – Halfway through last season, there was no question Rubio was worth the wait for Wolves fans as he was everything that was promised and then some. Rubio looks and plays like a prototypical point guard. Always finding the open man for the shot, fast to the hoop and taking decent care of the ball on offense. Then he got injured midway through last season and his road back has been long and quite bumpy. His assists are still at the same rate as they were last year but his turnovers are up and his shooting, already poor at only 35.7% last year, has declined to an even worse 31%. Still, if he can stay on the court, you can bet he’ll be able to shake off the rust and get back to the amazingly fun player he was last season.
Did You Know?: The Wolves have already lost 180 games to injury this year, by far tops in the NBA.
Song of the Day: “Travelin’ Man” by Ricky Nelson. If the Blazers want to make the playoffs they’ll have to do well on this six game road trip, so this song seemed appropriate. Enjoy:
Portland: Out – SG Elliott Williams (Achilles), Questionable-SG Wesley Matthews (Ankle), PG Ronnie Price (Ankle), SF Sasha Pavlovic (Foot).
Minnesota: Out-SF Chase Buddinger (Meniscus), SG Brandon Roy (Knee), SG Malcolm Lee (Knee), PF Kevin Love (Hand).
Re-Evaluating Minnesota: On Injuries
Look I know I wrote my piece for the Minnesota preview last time on injuries but the unmistakable fact for the Wolves this season, as it was for the Blazers the past few years, is that injuries are headline for this time. After starting out reasonably well despite being without the game’s best rebounder, Kevin Love, the Wolves have hit the skids as the injuries have piled up. What was once a team that many, including yours truly, would have bet heavily would make the playoffs is looking like its headed for yet another NBA Lottery. Good coaching, and Rick Adelman is a good coach, can overcome injuries for a while but past a certain point is hard to either make up for the players you are missing or the chemistry you don’t get because your lineups are so variable game to game. Here’s hoping Minnesota can escape this injury-filled season without further harm.
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.