Trail Blazers Vs. Timberwolves Preview
February 23rd, 2014
By NICOLINO DIBENEBETTO
At Minnesota two weeks ago, LaMarcus Aldridge led Portland past a Timberwolves team missing its top three scorers.
In Sunday night's rematch in Portland, the Trail Blazers will not only be without Aldridge but will also have to figure out a way to slow down Kevin Love.
Portland looks to continue its dominance over the Timberwolves, who are riding a three-game win streak behind Love's sensational play.
Aldridge leads Portland with averages of 23.9 points and 11.4 rebounds, but he's expected to miss a third straight game with a nagging groin injury.
Damian Lillard has been picking up the scoring slack for the Trail Blazers (37-18), losers of seven of 11. The All-Star guard had 31 points in a 111-109 loss to San Antonio on Wednesday, but his 28 spurred a 102-94 victory over Utah two days later.
"I definitely feel like there's times I have to assert myself," said Lillard, second on the team with 21.0 points per game. "When you're going through a tough stretch, it's hard to get back on track sometimes. This win will get us back on track."
Facing Minnesota (27-28) may also help.
The Blazers have won 23 of the past 26 meetings with the Timberwolves, taking 15 of 16 at home following a 115-104 victory Jan. 25. They beat them on the road 117-110 on Feb. 8 behind Aldridge's 26 points and nine rebounds.
This time, however, Portland will have to contend with Love, who has missed four of the past six meetings due to injuries, including the one earlier this month.
The All-Star forward is averaging 34.6 points with 14.9 rebounds in seven games this month. He is averaging 37.0 points on 58.1 percent shooting in the last three contests for Minnesota, which is seeking its first four-game win streak since Dec. 7-15, 2012.
Love recorded his first career triple-double Saturday with 37 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in a 121-104 win over the Jazz in the opener of a five-game road trip.
"I thought at some point it would happen. I've been very close. Happy it was tonight and more happy we got the win," Love said. "This is one I'll definitely remember."
The Timberwolves were also without Kevin Martin (19.0 ppg) and Nikola Pekovic (18.0 ppg) against Portland two weeks ago, but Pekovic may be back for this one. The center, who has missed the last 11 games with a bruised ankle, has totaled 53 points and 20 rebounds in two meetings with the Trail Blazers this season.
Portland's Wesley Matthews had 21 points in the last meeting, giving him an average of 20.3 over his last seven matchups. The forward is coming off a 24-point performance against Utah.
Robin Lopez had a career-high 18 rebounds while adding 12 points against the Jazz. The center is averaging 12.7 points and 12.8 rebounds in six games, but he missed 5 of 6 field goals to finish with seven points and 11 boards against Minnesota earlier this month.
Lillard scored 14 points in each of the last two meetings with Minnesota, making 8 of 27 from the floor overall. He had been averaging 25.8 points on 54.4 percent shooting over his first five matchups.