Kevin Love and the Wolves go for the season sweep on Sunday. Credit: Steve Dykes-US PRESSWIRE

Game 53 Preview: Portland Trail Blazers vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

Blazers: 24-28 (5th Northwest Division)

Wolves: 25-28 (4th Northwest Division)

Game Details: Rose Garden Arena Portland, OR. 6:00 PM. TV: CSN, NBATV. Radio: 750 AM (KXTG)

Projected Blazer Starting Lineup: PG Raymond Felton (#5, 6’1”, North Carolina), SG Wesley Matthews (#2, 6’5”, Marquette), SF Nicolas Batum (#88, 6’8”, MSB Le Mans, France), PF J.J. Hickson (#21, 6’9”, North Carolina State). C Joel Przybilla (#10. 7’1”, Minnesota)

Projected Wolves Starting Lineup: PG Luke Ridnour (#13, 6’2”, Oregon), SG Martell Webster (#5, 6’7”, Seattle Prep High School), SF Wesley Johnson (#4, 6’7”, Syracuse), PF Derrick Williams (#7, 6’8”, Arizona), C Kevin Love (#42, 6’10” UCLA)

I’ll keep this one brief, since it’s Sunday. Check out my preview for the month of April if you want to see what I think about what Portland has left for 2011-12.

If the Blazers have anything real left to play for (and once again I’ll point you to my monthly preview) it is one thing: pride. If there is one instance in which pride should play a key role with this Portland team it would be in the scenario of the Blazers versus the Timberwovles.

The T-Wolves have been on-again off-again as the NBA’s Hot Young Team To Watch. A title that should drive Portland crazy, because they used to own it. Minnesota is a fun team, with a lot of young talent, a budding super-duper star in Kevin Love, and a coach that knows how to win big at the NBA level. They’re the team doing everything right, as opposed to Portland, the once HYTTW that blew up and did everything wrong. So there’s that.

There’s also this. Before this season, the Blazers couldn’t lose to the Wolves even if they tried. From 2007 to 2011, Portland beat Minnesota 16 straight times. In 2011-12, the T-Wolves are one game away from sweeping the season series with the Blazers. Talk about a turn around.

In the coming season, Portland is going to once again want to establish dominance of the inferior teams in their conference and their division. They’ve played big brother to Minnesota for so long, that it’s imperative that they re-gain that position of power going forward if they want to have a shot at establishing that dominance. A win Sunday would be a big step in that direction.

Not to mention, a win Sunday would prove that the Blazers do care that they were blown out twice by a team they owned for almost half a decade.

Quickly, a couple of things to watch for:

  • J.J. Hickson: Can he have another big game, this time against Kevin Love? Hickson’s defense might be the weakest part of his game. K Love has become an offensive Goliath this season. Sunday will be J.J. chance to prove he’s up for even the most daunting defensive assignments.
  • Will LaMarcus Aldridge play: That kind of speaks for itself don’t you think?
  • Who will play back-up to Felton: Nolan missed time with an illness, does that mean he gets his minutes back, or will coach Kaleb Canales stick with Flynn? Remember Flynn was drafted by the Wolves, and might want to excel against his old team.

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Twitter: @mikeacker | @ripcityproject

Tags: Blazers Wolves

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