The Portland Trail Blazers (35-15) travel North to play the Minnesota Timberwolves (24-26). This will be the third meeting between the teams this season, with the home team winning in the previous two. Both teams will be playing their second game of a back-to-back and both will be looking to bounce back from a loss on Friday.
The Trail Blazers had every opportunity to win against the Indiana Pacers last night. The offense was firing on all cylinders and the defense was keeping the Pacers at bay. However, late game miscues ruined any chance for the Trail Blazers to complete a regular season sweep of the series. It was one of the more entertaining games the Trail Blazers have played in this season, yet the result was not what they would have liked. The Trail Blazers have no one to blame but themselves and must forget the nightmares from last night as they have a quick turnaround against a divisional opponent.
The Minnesota Timberwolves can’t seem to get over the .500 hump. Last night, they dominated the Pelicans through the first three quarters. The fourth quarter turned out to be completely opposite as the Pelicans outscored the Timberwolves by 17 en route to a 98-91 victory. Kevin Love had another spectacular game posting 26 points and 19 rebounds. The All-Star will need more support from his teammates if they are to take the season series lead against the Trail Blazers tonight.
Portland Trail Blazers:
- The Trail Blazers have no injuries to report, however, Mo Williams will remain away from the team indefinitely. Williams is taking personal time as his sister is seriously ill.
- Nikola Pekovic (ankle) is expected to be out as he continues to recover from right ankle bursitis.
Keys To The Game
Wesley Matthews vs. Kevin Martin. I expect that this match-up will be the best on the floor tonight. In two games this season, Matthews is averaging 17.0 points and 5.5 rebounds against the Timberwolves. After heading into the locker room at halftime with zero points on 0-6 from the field last night, Matthews exploded in the second half and gave the Blazers a chance to win. He recorded 19 points and was 7-16 shooting in the second half. Matthews will have his hands full with Kevin Martin tonight. Martin is averaging 26.0 points and 4.5 rebounds against the Trail Blazers this season. That is tied for this third highest point average against any team in the NBA this season. Martin can stroke it from the outside as well as take you off the dribble. Matthews must force Martin to take uncomfortable shots and stay out of foul trouble.
Turnovers. With each turnover the Trail Blazers commit, I die a little inside. Even though they average the fifth fewest turnovers per game (13.7), it still seems as though it’s a major problem. Last night the Trail Blazers committed 13 turnovers. That number is right at their season average but it’s the timing of the turnovers that kills them. For example, late in last night’s game, LaMarcus Aldridge threw the ball right to David West under the hoop resulting in a non-contested dunk. The Trail Blazers must secure the ball late and the close game losses will return to close game wins.
Robin Lopez. Lopez was the unsung hero in last night’s game. His scoring and rebounding efforts helped spark the Trail Blazers offense early. With Nikola Pekovic probably out of the lineup tonight, Lopez should be able to establish himself inside. My guess would be that the Timberwolves will start Ronny Turiaf at center. They might decide to play small and put Love at center which would create a few interesting match-up problems for Portland. Whatever Rick Adelman tries, Lopez must have an augmented presence on the offensive and defensive end.