Game Details: Rose Garden, Portland, OR. 7:00 PM. TV: CSN. Radio: KXTG (95.5 FM)
Projected Portland Starting Lineup: PG Andre Miller (#24, 6′2″, Utah), SG Brandon Roy (#7, 6′6″, Washington), SF Wesley Matthews (#2, 6′5″, Marquette), PF LaMarcus Aldridge (#12, 6′11″, Texas), C Marcus Camby (#23, 6′11″, UMass)
Projected Minnesota Starting Lineup: PG Luke Ridnour (#13, 6’2″, Oregon), SG Wesley Johnson (#4, 6’7″, Syracuse), SF Michael Beasley (#8, 6’10″, Kansas State), PF Kevin Love (#42, 6’10″, UCLA), C Darko Milicic (#31, 7’0″, Yugoslavia)
All indications are that this upcoming stretch of games might be the last of this team as we know it. Between the Blazers’ three-game losing skid, reports this morning that Rich Cho offered Nicolas Batum and Joel Przybilla to the Sixers for Andre Igoudala and the speculation that there may be tension between Brandon Roy and Andre Miller, it’s looking like there will be some major moves made sooner rather than later. But for now, picking up a home win against the abysmal Minnesota Timberwolves will have to do.
Not that there are any guarantees the way Portland has been playing. LaMarcus Aldridge was absolutely inspired in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s game in Dallas, and Nate McMillan can only hope his play is a sign of things to come. He certainly won’t have it easy tonight against local boy Kevin Love, who has come into his own this year as a rebounding machine capable of putting up points as well. Michael Beasley, a power forward starting at the 3, has been a revelation since being traded from Miami, averaging 21 points per game. Darko Milicic, the butt of countless draft-bust jokes for close to a decade, is finally finding his role with the Wolves this season, but Marcus Camby should have no problem with him. Other than that, the Wolves’ rotation is pretty shaky. Corey Brewer, Sebastian Telfair, Jonny Flynn, and Anthony Tolliver don’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of most teams.
But I don’t need to remind you how poor the Blazers have been lately outside of Miller, Wesley Matthews, and the occasional spurt from Aldridge. Roy is clearly hobbled and Batum and Rudy Fernandez have struggled offensively. The fourth quarter of the Dallas game showed that this team is still capable of playing at a high level occasionally, and the Timberwolves should provide a perfect opportunity to re-establish a rhythm. If Aldridge and Camby can hold Love under 15 rebounds and at least a couple of players outside of Miller and Matthews have their stroke, the Blazers should be fine. Under normal circumstances, anything less than a 30-point blowout against the lowly Wolves would be seen as worrisome. Now, it’ll just be a relief not to have to add them to the list of Washington/Philly-caliber teams the Blazers have lost to. But at least Martell Webster should get a nice welcome from the Rose Garden crowd.