Game 55 Preview: Portland Trail Blazers at Minnesota Timberwolves

LaMarcus Aldridge will get the chance tonight to avenge his All-Star snub against Kevin Love and the Minnesota Timberwolves. Photo courtesy of OregonLive.com.

Blazers: 30-24

Minnesota: 13-41

Game Details: Target Center, Minneapolis, MN. 5:00 PM. TV: CSN. Radio: KXTG (95.5 FM).

Projected Portland Starting Lineup: PG Andre Miller (#24, 6′2″, Utah), SG Wesley Matthews (#2, 6′5″, Marquette), SF Nicolas Batum (#88, 6′9″, France), PF LaMarcus Aldridge (#12, 6′11″, Texas), C Dante Cunningham (#33, 6′9″, Villanova)

Projected Minnesota Starting Lineup: PG Jonny Flynn (#13, 6’2″, Oregon), SF Wesley Johnson (#4, 6’7″, Syracuse), PF Kevin Love (#42, 6’10″, UCLA), C Darko Milicic (#31, 7’0″, Yugoslavia)

If you’re someone who thinks LaMarcus Aldridge’s recent tear has been an eff-you response to his All-Star snub, you should be in for a treat tonight. For the fourth time this season and the first time since David Stern announced that Kevin Love, not LaMarcus, would replace Yao Ming on the Western Conference All-Star team, Aldridge’s Blazers will face Love’s Timberwolves.

Portland has beaten Minnesota all three times they’ve played this season, and on paper, there’s no reason they shouldn’t close out the season-series sweep tonight. Outside of Love, whom Aldridge has outplayed head-to-head this year but who is a tremendous scorer and rebounder, the Wolves don’t have much. Their second-best player, Michael Beasley, has sat out the team’s last three games with a sprained ankle. He hopes to return tonight, but his effectiveness may be limited by his injury. The rest of these guys—Martell Webster, Darko Milicic, Corey Brewer, Nikola Pekovic, Anthony Tolliver, Sebastian Telfair, Jonny Flynn—are players the Blazers know and are better than.

The Blazers are on a four-game winning streak, and except for the Bulls, all of the teams they’ve beaten are about on the Wolves’ level. Their games against the Cavs, Raptors, and Pistons were ugly at times, and closer than was comfortable. I’d like to see, at least once on this three-game road trip, a good old-fashioned blowout. I want to see LaMarcus Aldridge and Wesley Matthews not play the fourth quarter tonight. I want to see Sean Marks and Luke Babbitt play substantial minutes. The fact that Portland has been able to beat bottom-feeding teams, but if they want to further solidify themselves as a playoff team this season (and it’s not too late to do that), it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get into the habit of truly laying the smackdown on Minnesota-caliber teams.

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