Scouting Report: Wolves vs. Trail Blazers
Wolves (20-19) vs. Trail Blazers (19-19) - 7 PM Target Center
Where to Watch: Fox Sports North
Where to Listen: 830 AM WCCO
*Get your questions on the radio airwaves during halftime! Just tweet questions to @WolvesRadio and listen to the halftime show hosted by John Focke on WCCO 830 AM.
On Saturday, the Minnesota Timberwolves ended a road losing streak against the Portland Trail Blazers that dated back to the 2005 season. Tonight against the Blazers, the Wolves will look to beat Portland at home for the first time since 2007.
Minnesota and Portland will square off tonight at 7 p.m. tonight at Target Center for the second of their three meetings of the year. With a win the Wolves would secure the season series against their divisional rival, and at the same time they would win their fifth straight home game for the first time since the 2006-07 season.
But in order to get to that point, Minnesota will need to hold off a Trail Blazers team that is trying to leapfrog them in the Northwest Division standings. Portland is 19-19 on the year but has struggled on the road, posting a 5-12 mark away from the Rose Garden. They’ve lost three of their last four road games and three of four overall, while Minnesota has won seven of their past 10 games since losing four straight from Feb. 8-13.
Last time out
The Wolves stole a 122-110 win from Portland on Saturday thanks to one of their most complete games of the season. Minnesota scored 40 points during the first quarter, ended with 38 in the fourth and in between withstood the Blazers’ runs that threatened to chip away at their lead. Forward Kevin Love led the way with 42 points and 10 rebounds, while Ricky Rubio had 10 of his 12 assists in the first quarter and Martell Webster finished with 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting. Derrick Williams also had 5-for-8 day from the floor and finished with 15 points. Meanwhile, Minnesota held Blazers All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge to 14 points and 7 rebounds—he’s averaging 21.6 points and 8.3 boards a night this season.
Key matchup: Guard play
Wolves Minute with John Focke
In their last matchup, Portland’s starting guards Jamal Crawford and Nicolas Batum combined for 52 points on 17-for-31 shooting, and throughout the game they provided a spark that kept the Blazers within striking distance until Minnesota’s fourth-quarter run. Batum scored 29 on the night and showed his athleticism throughout the night—he’s shooting 50 percent from the field in three games this month. The Wolves have enjoyed a rotation of four players in their back court in recent games, adding Martell Webster to the already set group of Rubio, Luke Ridnour and JJ Barea. Rubio has provided consistent assists—he’s still fifth in the league with 8.3 APG—and over the past five games at least one of the three other guards have come up with strong scoring performances to supplement the team’s offense. In Monday’s 95-94 win over the Clippers, it was Ridnour who chipped in a 12-point effort.
Wolves center Nikola Pekovic missed Monday’s game with a sore right foot, but he was back at practice on Tuesday. Though the session was short and was more of a walkthrough than a physical practice, Pekovic did not look to be favoring his foot. He’s scheduled to be re-evaluated prior to tonight’s game against Portland. In his absence, center Darko Milicic put together a 13-point effort and displayed strong defense against the Clippers—particularly helping contain Blake Griffin in the post. Before playing 28 minutes on Monday, Milicic had played only 41 minutes since Feb. 3 against New Jersey. He should have fresh legs if he is again called upon tonight.
Learning to win late
Through much of the 2011-12 season, the Timberwolves have shown an ability to make runs and play strong defense during the final quarter. On Monday against the Clippers, the Wolves held off a ferocious Los Angeles run to win a one-point game at home. It’s the second straight home game in which the Wolves won at the buzzer—on Feb. 22, Ridnour’s floater as time expired handed Minnesota a 100-98 win over the Utah Jazz. The Timberwolves are beginning to show an ability to pull off close victories late in ballgames. With both teams putting up similar points per game numbers this season—Portland scores 0.8 PPG more and allows 2.4 PPG fewer than the Wolves this year—Minnesota could find itself locked in a fourth quarter battle again tonight.
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