Scouting Report: Wolves at Trail Blazers
Wolves (25-28) at Trail Blazers (24-28) - 8 PM Rose Garden
Where to Watch: FSN Plus (Channel Listings)
Where to Listen: 830 AM WCCO
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Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman said after Friday’s loss to the Boston Celtics that winning on the road isn’t easy and that winning at home is an important part of maintaining a shot at a postseason berth.
But after the Wolves fell 100-79 to the Celtics at Target Center, they’ve left themselves little choice but to take care of business away from home. Minnesota opens up April with back-to-back contests on the West Coast, beginning tonight with an 8 p.m. tipoff in Portland. Forward Anthony Tolliver said the team is looking at each game as a must-win moving forward, and there’s no doubt that’s exactly what lies ahead in the next five matchups.
Minnesota dropped to 3.5 games behind Houston and Denver for the seventh and eighth spots in the Western Conference. Over the next four games, the Wolves will face the four worst teams in the Western Conference—Portland, Sacramento, Golden State and New Orleans. Those four teams are a combined 75-129 this season.
“We don’t control our own destiny at this point,” Tolliver said. “We’re not in the eighth spot or seventh spot. We have to win games, and other people have to lose games for us to get in. All we can do is control things on our end and try to win games.”
That begins tonight in Portland. The Wolves are 2-0 against the Blazers this season, although this is a different looking squad than Minnesota saw pre-trade deadline. Since then, coach Nate McMillan was fired and starters Gerald Wallace and Marcus Camby were traded away. Since the deadline, the Blazers are 4-5. They’re coming into tonight’s game having lost a 98-97 nail-biter against the Clippers on Friday night.
Last time out
The Wolves took control early and never looked back, putting up 37 points in the first quarter and rolling to a 106-94 win over the Blazers on March 7 at Target Center. Forward Kevin Love put together a 29-point, 16-rebound effort, while Luke Ridnour scored 22 points and added five assists and Wes Johnson chipped in 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting—including 3-of-4 from 3-point range. The key difference was 3-point shooting. Minnesota shot 56 percent from beyond the arc, hitting 13 in the game, while Portland struggled to connect from long range and finished 3-of-23 on the night. Guard Raymond Felton had 23 points, while LaMarcus Aldridge had 22.
Aldridge, the Blazers’ All-Star forward, didn’t play on Friday against the Clippers with a sprained left elbow. He’s currently listed as day-to-day. In his absence, JJ Hickson stepped in and performed admirably. He shot 13-of-19 from the field, scored 29 points and added 13 rebounds against Blake Griffin.
The Timberwolves know a thing or two about injuries, as center Nikola Pekovic (bone spurs in his right ankle), forward Michael Beasley (sprained great toe in his left foot) and guard JJ Barea (right thigh contusion) all have missed time over the past two weeks. Pekovic is currently listed as out indefinitely, and Barea said Friday he was unsure if he would make the West Coast trip. Beasley is day to day with his foot injury.
A blazing month of March
Wolves forward Kevin Love had a March to remember. He scored a franchise record 51 points against Oklahoma City on March 23, became the first player the league in points, rebounds and 3-pointers in a single month and finished with 491 points. Love scored 40 or more points three times in March and finished with 30.7 points and 18.9 rebounds per game. He tallied the seventh 30-point, 20-rebound effort of his career on March 25 against Denver, giving him more 30-point, 20-rebound games than any active player in the NBA—Tim Duncan and Dwight Howard have 6 and Kevin Garnett has 5.
Ball control is a must
The Wolves struggled on Friday against the Celtics because of miscues and ball movement. Minnesota had 21 turnovers in the game, leading to 16 Boston points, but in return Minnesota scored only three points on nine Boston turnovers. The Wolves had 15 assists in the game to Boston’s 29.
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