Scouting Report | Wolves at Blazers
The Wolves are hot, the Blazers are… to be determined. The Wolves have won six of seven while the Blazers have won just two of their last seven.
Portland absolutely destroyed the Suns on Thursday night but nevertheless has been underperforming—a win over arguably the worst team in the league doesn’t do a ton to quell that feeling. Additionally, C.J. McCollum is nursing an ankle injury. If he is unable to go Portland might not be able to muster enough offense to overcome the Wolves’ stout defense.
Nevertheless, the Wolves can’t afford to take Portland lightly, especially on the road. In the last two matchups between these teams the home team has won big both times. Damian Lillard is obviously always a threat to go off, and Portland has several other guys who are capable of hitting from deep. When the Blazers hit their shots they can run up scores in a hurry. The Wolves need to avoid a shootout at all costs.
The Blazers are 14-11 and sitting in seventh place in the West. The Wolves are 13-12 with the No. 10 seed. Obviously, this game is a big one for conference positioning and one the Wolves need to win.
What: Wolves at Blazers
When: 9:00 p.m. CT
Where: Moda Center
Watch: Fox Sports North, NBA TV
Listen: 830 WCCO
Big On Big
The seasons of Karl-Anthony Towns and Jusuf Nurkic are going in different directions. After a strong start, Nurkic has trailed off lately, averaging just 13.4 points and 7.6 rebounds in his last five. Towns on the other hand is averaging 23.2 points and 10.6 rebounds.
Nurkic has given Towns trouble in the past, but the Wolves’ big man winning that matchup is going to be extremely important if the Wolves are to pick up the win in Portland. If Towns can command double teams from Al-Farouq Aminu it will also help Towns’ teammates. Aminu is one of Portland’s best perimeter defenders, so forcing him to play off his man would be big.
Towns is rolling and playing with extreme confidence—there’s no reason to think he won’t be able to carry that over against the Blazers.
Damian Lillard has been on an absolute tear this season. If the Blazers were playing better he would almost certainly be in the MVP conversation. The point guard is averaging 27.2 points, 6.4 assists and 5.1 rebounds per game.
It will fall to Robert Covington to slow Lillard down. Covington’s size and length will come in handy getting a hand in Lillard’s face and keeping him in front of the Wolves defense, but Lillard’s speed could be an issue. It will be important for Towns to provide an inside presence against Lillard’s drives without getting into foul trouble.
Towns needs to be on his toes—Lillard and Nurkic run a lot of pick and roll so Towns will undoubtedly get switched onto Lillard. While the Blazers’ guard’s midrange is deadly, he’s even better at the rim so Towns needs to keep Lillard in front of him at all cost. Covington on his part needs to go over screens religiously—giving Lillard even a little bit of space behind the three-point line is a recipe for disaster.
Wolves: Jerryd Bayless (knee) is out.
Blazers: C.J. McCollum (ankle) is probable.
Projected Starting Lineups
Wolves: PG - Teague, SG – Wiggins, SF – Covington, PF – Gibson, C - Towns
Blazers: PG – Lillard, SG – McCollum, SF – Harkless, PF – Aminu, C - Nurkic