Team Records: Minnesota (5-5) at Portland (5-6)
Game Info: 7 p.m., TV on KGW, Radio on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM
Vegas Line: Portland -2.5
Refs: Joe Crawford, Derrick Collins, Tre Maddox.
The Skinny: This was supposed to be a night for celebration, the night that Brandon Roy returned to Portland. Instead, Roy underwent his seventh knee surgery on Monday and may never play in the NBA again. Regardless, especially with the return of Kevin Love in Minnesota’s last game, the injury-plagued Wolves drag themselves into town off a loss at home vs. Denver two nights ago. The Blazers come in having had their three-game win streak snapped in Phoenix on Wednesday.
Last Season: Minnesota won the season series 2-1 Prior to last season, the Blazers had won sixteen straight vs. the Wolves.
Projected Timberwolves Lineup:
PF: Kevin Love (UCLA, 5th Season) – 34 PPG, 14 RPG, 2 APG
SF: Andrei Kirilenko (Russia, 11th season) – 13.4 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 3 APG
C: Nikola Pekovic (Montenegro, 3rd season) – 14.6 PPG, 6.1 RPG, .9 APG
SG: Malcolm Lee (UCLA, 2nd Season) – 3.6 PPG, 2 RPG, 1.5 APG
PG: Luke Ridnour (Oregon, 10th season) – 11.2 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 3.7 APG
Player to Watch: Luke Ridnour (pictured at right) – The Oregon alum has managed to carve himself out a nice career in the NBA, and is even a starter, at least until Ricky Rubio comes back. 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 at least a serviceable stopgap for the time being.
Did You Know?: Thanks to all the injuries this season, the Wolves have been forced to use five different starting lineups this year. The only two to start every game are Kirilenko and Ridnour.
Song of the Day: “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys in honor of Kevin Love”s uncle, and Beach Boys founding member, Mike Love:
Portland: Out – SG Elliott Williams (Achilles), Questionable-JJ Hickson (Shoulder Sprain).
Minnesota: Out-SF Chase Buddinger (Meniscus), SG Brandon Roy (Knee), PG Ricky Rubio (ACL/MCL).
As Portland fans, we can certainly relate to what Minnesota has been going through so far this year, with injuries seemingly coming in bunches, the lineup a patchwork at best and the once bright hopes for the future seemingly dashed by the injury gods. Yet, thanks to a steady hand by Rick Adelman and a bit of luck, the Wolves have made it through at least the first part of this rocky storm in decent shape. Minnesota’s defense is good, and they rank fourth in the league in defensive efficiency so far this season. However, their offense is less successful and while Kevin Love’s return might help that a fair bit, they need more than Love to see them through. The Wolves rely on one or two other players getting hot on any given night. On nights that works, they win, but on nights that fails, like four of their last five games, they lose. Bottom line, the Wolves might be headed in the right direction by the end of this season but for now they are decidedly stuck in neutral.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They win the rebounding battle. With Kevin Love back, the Wolves are suddenly 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.