Scouting Report: Wolves at Trail Blazers
Web Editorial Associate
Wolves (5-5) at Trail Blazers (5-6) – 9 PM Rose Garden (Portland)
Where to Watch: Fox Sports North
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 begin the first installment of a four-game road trip tonight when they travel to Portland to face a divisional rival in the Trail Blazers. Coach Rick Adelman’s squad has now lost three straight games, and with Kevin Love back into the lineup, Minnesota hopes to get back to their winning ways during their travels out west.
Tipoff is set for 9 p.m. at the Rose Garden on Fox Sports North and 830 WCCO-AM.
After starting the season with a 2-5 record, Portland put together a three-game winning streak before dropping their latest against the Suns. The loss in Phoenix was a continuation of the Blazers’ struggles there, as they have only won two of their last 14 games at the Suns’ home court. Rookie guard Damian Lillard had 24 points for Portland, and Wes Matthews and Nicolas Batum (who was questionable to play with a severe cold) each added 13 more. It wasn’t the best night for Portland, as its bench only contributed 13 points and it was outscored 54-24 in the paint. Marcin Gortat led the Suns with 22 points, helping his team walk away with a largely uncontested victory.
Lillard continues to shine early in his career. The Las Vegas Summer League co-MVP is averaging 19.1 points per game in his first 11 regular season games coupled with 5.3 assists a night. He’s scored 20-plus points in seven of his first 11 games and is hitting 39.4 percent of his 3-point attempts. Lillard is complementing Portland’s two top scorers (LaMarcus Aldridge 20.3 PPG, Nicolas Batum 20.1 PPG) well and is giving Blazers’ opponents a formidable test at the point guard spot.
Denver spoiled Kevin Love’s return to the lineup from a broken right hand injury, as the Nuggets came into Minneapolis and handed the Wolves their third consecutive loss, 101-94. Love, whose status was announced only an hour before the game, scored 34 points—16 of which were in the first quarter. The All-Star forward also grabbed 14 rebounds, bolstering Minnesota’s post presence after the squad suffered through several anemic games down low. The Nuggets overcame a 14-point halftime deficit to come back and win, led by Danilo Gallinari’s 19 points and 18 each from guards Ty Lawson and Andre Iguodala.
Stats To Watch
Tonight’s matchup pits two teams with differing offensive and defensive statistics. The Wolves are currently 26th in the NBA in scoring at 92.0 points per game, while Portland is 11th at 99.2 points a night. But defensively, Minnesota is fourth in the league 91.5 points per game and the Blazers are last in the league giving up 102.9 points per game.
Small Forward Spotlight
The Wolves heavily pursued Blazers small forward Nicolas Batum this offseason, extending an offer sheet to the restricted free agent which was matched by the Blazers. So far this season Batum has shown why he garnered interest from both teams. He's averaging 20.1 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals and shooting 48 percent from the field. But the Wolves ended up signing veteran Andrei Kirilenko later in the offseason, and he was the key to the team's fast start depsite all the injuries. Kirilenko is a do-it-all player on both ends of the court as a consistend defender and an able scorer. Both should be factors in tonight's contest.
Last Time Out: April 1, 2012
Only 10 games after the firing of coach Nate McMillan, Portland kept themselves in the playoff race with a 119-106 win over the Wolves on April Fool’s Day last season.
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 26 points and Batum recorded 24 as the Blazers knocked off their divisional rival. Portland also got 15 points and nine rebounds from J.J. Hickson, a forward who was acquired only nine days prior after being waived by Sacramento.
"We played a good game, played sound defense, we controlled the rebounds," Batum said. "And we controlled Kevin Love."
Love logged 26 points and nine rebounds for a Wolves team that only used nine players. J.J. Barea, Nikola Pekovic and Michael Beasley all sat out with injuries, forcing Minnesota to make adjustments like sliding Love into the center spot. Derrick Williams and Luke Ridnour both shot 50 percent from the field and scored 21 points; the only other Timberwolves player in double-digits scoring was Wayne Ellington with 12.
Key Matchup: Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge
Last time these two teams met, Love and Aldridge scored identical point totals with 26 points each. They both play crucial roles for their teams, as they are All-Star power forwards who make large impacts on the offensive end for their respective squads. Aldridge leads Portland with 18.9 points per game, and Love enjoyed an impressive debut performance Friday with a 34-point outburst.
One thing to watch is Love’s conditioning. Returning from a broken hand, he wore a wrap and admitted soreness after Friday’s game. His shooting seemed a little off, as he only converted 2-9 from the perimeter and missed six free throws. Love played nearly 35 minutes against Denver, but is that too much at this point? Can his hand stay steady down the stretch? Another storyline is the competitive rivalry these two share. The last time these two played, they were visibly trash talking and jawing throughout the contest. Keep your eye on Love and Aldridge for a match-up that promises to be entertaining in more than one way.
Love’s presence could be a major factor in this game, as the Blazers are currently 27th in the league with 39.7 rebounds per game. He made a noticeable difference against the Nuggets on Wednesday—a team that led the NBA in rebounding coming into the contest.
For the first time this regular season, Love is projected to start at the power forward spot. Nikola Pekovic (sprained ankle) and JJ Barea (mid-foot sprain) each returned to active status on Wednesday and should be available as the Wolves open up their four-game road trip.
|Tonight's Projected Starters|
|PG||Luke Ridnour||Damian Lillard|
|SG||Malcolm Lee||Wesley Matthews|
|SF||Andrei Kirilenko||Nicolas Batum|
|PF||Kevin Love||LaMarcus Aldridge|
|C||Nikola Pekovic||Meyers Leonard|