Scouting Report: Wolves at Blazers

Alex Conover
Web Editorial Associate

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Wolves (20-35) at Blazers (26-31) — 9:00 PM Rose Garden Arena
Where to Watch: My29, NBATV
Where to Listen: 830 WCCO-AM

View Timberwolves Game Notes

Got questions during tonight’s game? Send them to Wolves Radio via Twitter using the hash tag #WolvesRadio!

 

The Wolves will play the third and final game of their West Coast road trip when they face off against Portland tonight the Rose Garden. Tipoff is set for 9 p.m. on My29, NBATV and 830 WCCO-AM.

Portland Breakdown

With only a few injuries scattered throughout the season, Portland has largely stuck with the same starting five all year—a concept that might seem foreign to Wolves fans. Damian Lillard continues his steady rise towards the Rookie of the Year Award with 18.4 PPG and 6.4 APG; LaMarcus Aldridge leads the team in scoring with 20.8 PPG. J.J. Hickson heads the rebounding efforts with 10.4 boards per game and 13.1 PPG (scoring an incredibly efficient 57 percent of the time).

Wes Matthews has enjoyed playing the Wolves in the last three outings, scoring 30, 26 and 22 points respectively, well above his average of 15.1 PPG. Nicolas Batum, who Minnesota made a run at in free agency, is averaging a career-high 15.4 PPG.

Last Time Out: February 4, 2013

Not even a month ago—Feb. 4, in fact—the Wolves played the Blazers and lost 100-98.

The first 36 minutes of the contest were sluggish. Neither team was sharp—Minnesota’s field goal percentage was a full 20 percent beneath Portland’s, and the Blazers had tossed away 21 turnovers. But on the heels of LaMarcus Aldridge’s patented turnaround jumper and solid shooting from their wings, the Blazers ran up a 19-point lead on the Wolves in front of a quiet Target Center crowd.

“We didn’t play good from the very beginning,” Pekovic said. “We let them have easy shots, we didn’t pressure their most important players, they got a lot of open shots.”

Dante Cunningham got into gear during the fourth quarter and reeled off 17 points, including four straight buckets capped with a dunk. Several of those shots came from Ricky Rubio assists, and before you knew it, the Wolves were miraculously within one point, 99-98.

With 21 seconds left, Rubio missed a fade-away shot that Aldridge contested. The Wolves got another shot after two missed Portland free throws, but Cunningham missed an 18-footer to seal the game in the Blazers’ favor.

Key Matchup: Wesley Matthews and Alexey Shved

No matter how you shake it this season, Wesley Matthews has been a Wolves killer from start to finish. Three of his five top scoring performances in 2012-13 have been against Minnesota, scoring 30 (including 5-of-6 3-point shooting) on Nov. 23, adding 26 more on Jan. 5 and 22 on Feb. 4. All were Blazers victories. Matthews, the Marquette product, is a 6-foot-5 sharpshooter who has the size and speed to produce matchup issues for the Wolves’ smaller back court. He comes into this game shooting 14-of-21 from behind the arc against Minnesota this season.

The one member of the Wolves back court that has the length to match up with Matthews is Shved, a 6-foot-6 shooting guard. For the Wolves, being able to get Shved kick-started on offense would be a big boost in trying to get a victory in the last of this three-game road trip. Shved has shot 5-of-24 in his last three games, and his minutes have dipped during that stretch. They’ll need Shved to help add some size to the team’s back court tonight, helping guard Matthews and possibly Nicolas Batum if Minnesota goes to a three-guard set with their injury situation still in question.

Injury report presented by TSR Injury Law

The Timberwolves will likely be without forward Andrei Kirilenko again tonight. He missed Thursday’s game against the Lakers with a strained left calf and is listed as doubtful tonight. Center Nikola Pekovic left the Lakers game with an abdominal strain and is questionable tonight. For the Blazers, Elliot Williams is out for the season with an Achilles injury.

 

Tonight's Probable Starters
Position Timberwolves Blazers
PG Ricky Rubio Damian Lillard
SG Luke Ridnour Wesley Matthews
SF Derrick Williams Nicolas Batum
PF Dante Cunningham LaMarcus Aldridge
C Nikola Pekovic* J.J. Hickson

*-Questionable tonight

 


For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter, and join the conversation at WolvesNation.com.