Shootaround Access: Wolves vs. Trail Blazers
The Timberwolves will be without Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love for tonight’s matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers. Both were declared inactive for tonight’s game at this morning’s shootaround as Love suffered a sprained finger on his right hand last game in Denver and Rubio continues to recover from back spasms that will keep him out of his fourth straight game tonight.
According to forward Dante Cunningham, however, his squad isn’t fazed by the absence of the duo.
“It’s just another game,” Cunningham said after shootaround. “In regards to who we have, we have enough guys to fill a starting lineup, so we’re going to go out and play hard.”
Point guard Luke Ridnour echoed his teammate. He stressed that the Wolves were going to play hard regardless of who is active, and that they need to keep competing in the mid-season playoff race.
“The key is we’re still in the hunt,” Ridnour said, “and we’ve just got to try and get ahead of .500 a few games and make a push before the break.”
Cunningham will likely get the start in Love’s absence tonight at power forward.
Slowing down Lillard
Damian Lillard, December’s NBA Rookie of the Month, comes into Target Center tonight in the midst of a hot season. He’s the consensus front-runner for the NBA Rookie of the Year award, and there’s little doubt that stopping him is key to the Wolves’ success tonight.
“He shoots the ball well,” Ridnour said. “He obviously plays a lot of minutes, too, so he gets comfortable out there. The key is to make him play on both ends of the floor and make things tough on him as much as you can on them. Their starting five is good, their team is good, so it’s going to be a tough challenge for us.”
Cunningham agreed that Lillard is doing a good job as Portland’s floor general.
“Actually I do like his game,” Cunningham said. “Very composed for a rookie. He’s controlling the team, and he’s been very consistent at it.”
Lillard is averaging 18.2 points per game and 6.4 assists per game for Portland this year.
Ridnour on Perimeter Shooting
It’s no secret that the Wolves are struggling with their 3-point shooting; they are averaging a league-worst 29.5 percent per game from beyond the arc. But Ridnour maintains that this slump is not characteristic of this roster.
“I think overall we have a lot of guys who can shoot the three,” Ridnour said. “Overall, we haven’t shot it well, but the good thing is there are a lot of games left. Hopefully we can all get going and hit some shots. We definitely have guys who can knock down perimeter jumpers and it’s just going to open the game up if we can do that.”
Although the dip in efficiency from outside has been frustrating, Ridnour knows that things will even out eventually.
“A lot of us have been around long enough that if you keep shooting it’s going to go in,” Ridnour said. “We have a lot of guys who are capable shooters, so we’re going to turn it around.”