Sunday's matchup features two struggling Northwest teams in dire need of a W. The good news is...one of them will win. If the TWolves grab the victory they'll jump a full game ahead of the Blazers and sweep the season series. If Portland wins they'll jump a few percentage points ahead of Minnesota--they'll also jump ahead of them in the Northwest Division and Western Conference standings.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are 25-28 on the season, 12-15 on the road and 3-7 in their last 10 games. The Portland Trailblazers are 24-28 on the year, 17-9 at home and are 4-6 in their last 10 games.
With the loss to Boston, Minnesota has lost three of their last four games at home. Now they'll head out on the road for a two-game road trip (Portland on Sunday/Sacramento on Monday). Unfortunately, the road has been much kinder to Minny, as of late. Since March 12th the Timberwolves have gone 3-6 in their last nine games on the road.
Clearly this isn't the same Trailblazers team we faced a month ago. Prior to the March 15th Trade Deadline the Trailblazers made a couple trades. They sent forward Gerald Wallace (lead the Blazers in steals with 1.5--also scored 13.6ppg and 6.8rpg) to the New Jersey Nets for a Top-3 protected first round pick, Shawne Williams and Mehmet Okur (who they later waived). The second trade was with the Houston Rockets. They sent Marcus Camby (lead the Blazers in rebounds w/8.8 and blocks with 1.5) to Houston and in return, received former-Wolf Jonny Flynn & Hasheem Thabeet. After all these trades, the Blazers fired head coach Nate McMillan and named Kaleb Canales as the interim head coach. During this stretch the Blazers also waived oft-injured center and former #1 pick, center Greg Oden.
Many are saying Portland is in "full-tank mode". Clearly a complete change in culture for the Blazers. They got really close to being and staying annual contenders. With a core of Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Gerald Wallace and a healthy Greg Oden could've challenged for a championship. Now, they'll be looking to the future, rebuilding with the draft and free agency, in hopes that they can build around a core of Aldridge & Batum.
The Minnesota Timberwolves will be without J.J. Barea & Michael Beasley. Both players didn't go on the road trip. However, starting center Nikola Pekovic, did. Pekovic went on the road trip which speculates that he'll either play on Sunday or Monday.
The Portland Trailblazers may be without their best player. LaMarcus Aldridge hyper-extended his elbow in the Blazers' game vs. the New Orleans Hornets on Thursday. He missed the Blazers' last game vs. the Clippers and may be out on Sunday, as well.
If Aldridge is unable to play, newly-acquired forward J.J. Hickson will get the start. J.J. was waived by the Sacramento Kings on March 19th. He's played 5 games with the Blazers and is averaging 16.0ppg & 5.8rpg in that time.
The Blazers' last game was a one-point loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. That game came Friday night as the Clips were able to defeat Portland 98-97. Hickson had 29pts & 13reb and Batume added 18pts. Chris Paul hit a driving layup with just five seconds to play, for the win. Had Portland won it would've been the Blazers' first back-to-back wins since Jan. 23rd/24th.
Let's get a look at the probable starters for Sunday's game...
Luke Ridnour vs. Raymond Felton (10.8ppg, 6.3apg, 1.3spg)
Martell Webster vs. Wesley Matthews (12.7ppg, 3.2rpg, 1.4spg)
Wesley Johnson vs. Nicolas Batum (13.9ppg, 4.3rpg, 1.0bpg)
Kevin Love vs. LaMarcus Aldridge (21.4ppg, 8.1rpg, 2.5apg)
Nikola Pekovic vs. Joel Pryzbilla (2.1ppg, 4.9rpg, 0.7bpg)
If Nikola Pekovic is unable to play, Kevin Love will move to center and Derrick Williams will get the start at power forward. If LaMarcus Aldridge can't play, J.J. Hickson (6.1ppg, 5.2rpg, 0.6spg) will start at power forward.
That's all for now, tipoff is set for 8pmCT at the Rose Garden in Portland, Sunday April 1st. A full gameday recap can be found here following the final horn. Until then, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!