Scouting Report: Wolves vs. Blazers
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< Wolves (18-26) vs Blazers (24-23) — 7:00 PM Target Center
Where to Watch: Fox Sports North Plus
Where to Listen: 830 WCCO-AM
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After a frustrating six-game skid, the Wolves got back on track with an assertive 115-86 win over the New Orleans Hornets on Saturday. Can they string some wins together with three more games left in their homestand? We’ll find out as they host Portland tonight. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on Fox Sports Plus and 830 WCCO-AM.
Portland overcame a six-game losing streak of their own and won four of their most recent six contests, including quality wins over Indiana, Los Angeles and Dallas. The Blazers have been hit with the injury bug lately, as Joel Freeland (illness), Wes Matthews (sprained ankle) and Ronnie Price (sprained ankle) all missed Saturday’s game against Utah.
Luckily for the Blazers, most of their core players have avoided injuries. LaMarcus Aldridge leads the scoring efforts in Portland with 20.5 points per game and is second in rebounding with 9.0 per. Spectacular rookie Damian Lillard paces the point guard spot at 18.4 PPG and 6.5 assists per game, while Nicolas Batum pitches in a well-rounded effort with 15.9 PPG, 4.9 APG and 6.1 RPG. J.J. Hickson is Portland’s top rebounder with an average of 10.8 boards per game.
Last Time Out: Jan. 5, 2013
For a second, the game on Jan. 5 between Minnesota and Portland looked like it was going to end heavily in the Blazers’ favor.
During a stretch in the second half, the Wolves’ deficit hovered around 20 points, topping out at 22. But Minnesota showed fight—trimming the gap to as little as two points late in the fourth quarter—before falling 102-97.
After learning before tip-off that they would be without star Kevin Love for an undetermined amount of time with a broken right hand, the Wolves went into tonight’s game with just 10 healthy players. That number was cut to nine when Nikola Pekovic left in the third quarter with a hip strain.
Despite limited personnel and a mountain of points to overcome, however, Minnesota nearly made a comeback with a 26-8 run late in the game. Part of that was fueled by a huge fourth-quarter effort from Williams, who dropped 18 points in the final frame. The Wolves were only down two points until LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum all hit crucial shots late for Portland and sealed the win.
Nikola Pekovic led Minnesota with 21 points and 15 rebounds in just 21 minutes of playing time before leaving with a minor injury. Andrei Kirilenko and Luke Ridnour each had 15 points, and Barea contributed 14.
Key Matchup: Damian Lillard and Ricky Rubio
The Weber State rookie who continues to run away with this year’s NBA Rookie of the Year Award just enjoyed games of 26 and 23 points scored, respectively, well above his season average. He has made at least two outside shots in nine of his last 11 games, including an astounding seven made 3s on Jan. 11 against Golden State (he totaled 37 points that night).
Across from Lillard lines up another exciting, young point guard who is bringing hope to his organization. Writers and fans clamored after the Wolves’ 29-point blowout win on Saturday that Ricky Rubio was starting to look like himself again, less than a year after major knee surgery. Indeed, Rubio dished several exciting alley-oop passes, again using his distributing abilities to captivate Target Center. But what was most encouraging might have been his hard takes to the rim, as he made several tough lay-ups instead of passing out or settling for a jumper. Coach Adelman has been stressing Rubio’s offensive development, and today’s test will be if Rubio can build on Saturday and keep playing aggressively and efficiently.
Injury report presented by TSR Injury Law
The Wolves continue to hold a relatively strong bill of health after Nikola Pekovic and Alexey Shved returned to the lineup. That’s all relative, however, as Minnesota continues to play without Kevin Love (hand), Chase Budinger (knee), Malcolm Lee (knee, hip) and Brandon Roy (knee).
For the Blazers, Wesley Matthews is questionable for tonight’s game with a sprained right ankle, as are Ronnie Price (right ankle) and Sasha Pavlovic (right foot). Elliot Williams (Achilles) is out for the season.
|Tonight's Probable Starters|
|PG||Ricky Rubio||Damian Lillard|
|SG||Luke Ridnour||Victor Claver*|
|SF||Andrei Kirilenko||Nicolas Batum|
|PF||Derrick Williams||LaMarcus Aldridge|
|C||Nikola Pekovic||J.J. Hickson|
*-Started last game in place of injured Wesley Matthews