No Kevin Love, no Andrei Kirilenko, likely no Nikola Pekovic...do we have to play anymore? Add onto that, they're facing a team that's cruised to three easy wins over Minny this season as we've made their offensive attack look like an unstoppable juggernaut and I can't say I'm really looking forward to this one.
The Wolves are down to just nine healthy players (assuming Pekovic sits out) as 60% of their starting lineup will be watching from the sidelines. Kevin Love is still out with the broken hand, Chase Budinger remains out as he rehabs from that torn lateral meniscus. The good news is that both should be back sometime this month! Malcolm Lee is done for the season after those knee/hip surgeries in January. Brandon Roy's knees still hate him and him playing in a Wolves uni again is as likely as us making the playoffs this season! He will be sitting behind the bench in his first return to Portland since his playing days. Andrei Kirilenko is nursing a strained calf. He apparently has some tests scheduled for Monday that should let us know exactly how much time he'll miss. Nikola Pekovic played just nine minutes in the first quarter of Thursday's loss in L.A. before leaving with an abdominal strain that kept him out for the night.
The historically injury-riddled Portland Trailblazers have been relatively healthy this season with no major injuries to their key players. The oft-injured Elliot Williams has been out all season as he recovers from a torn Achilles.
While the Timberwolves' hopes for playoffs are entirely deceased, the Portland Trailblazers are still in the hunt. The Wolves are currently 12th in the Western Conference and are now just 1.5 games ahead of 15th. The 15th spot is currently occupied in a three-team tie (Hornets, Kings & Suns). Portland is currently 10th in the Western Conference and just three-and-a-half games out of that 8th and final playoff spot. They've done themselves no favors lately as they've gone 1-8 in their last 9 games. They were on a season-high seven game losing streak before beating the Celtics 92-86 on Sunday, before falling back into bad habits with a loss to the Nuggets on Wednesday.
A meeting with the Wolves should get them back on the right track. The Blazers have beaten the Wolves three times already this season all by a considerable margin. The Wolves have simply had no answer for the Blazers starting backcourt. Wesley Matthews has hit 14 of 21 three point attempts and is averaging 26 points a game in those three games, while rookie Damian Lillard is adding 23 points a game!
The Blazers look slightly different from the last time these two teams met. Portland landed Eric Maynor in a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder and because they had a full 15-man roster (and didn't send anyone to OKC in the trade) they waived veteran point guard Ronnie Price. Maynor is now Portland's backup point guard. The craziest thing about all of this? The Blazers bench is so bad that Maynor (a bench warmer for the Thunder) instantly steps in as Portland's best reserve.
Portland has won 13 of the last 14 meetings between these two teams at the Rose Garden and have taken 20 of 22 overall in the series, which includes all three games this season. The Timberwolves will almost certainly make it 14 of 15 & 21 of 23 overall in this one. That's not a crazy thought considering the Wolves have won just 4 of their last 24 games and four-straight.
Let's take a look at the probable starting lineups for this one...
We know Ricky, Luke & DWill will start in this one for Minnesota, beyond that, it's a tossup. Adelman may decided to continue to start Cunningham at small forward or he may decide to start Gelabale (5.4P, 2.9R, 0.5S) at the 3. If Nikola Pekovic (15.9P, 8.8R, 0.9B) indeed can't play, expect Stiemsma to get the start and Chris Johnson to see some extended playing time.
I don't expect you'll see much of that 2-3 zone the Wolves were forced to use on Thursday after Pek went down. Had they not Dwight Howard would have had a 'field day' in the paint! The Wolves will have to worry about Aldridge in this one, but the biggest concern will be defending the perimeter and not allowing Lillard, Wes & Nic to light us up from deep.
If the Wolves want a win in this one, they need to find a way to become excellent perimeter defenders and somehow get big performances from some unlikely sources.
Tipoff for this one is set for 9pmCT, enjoy the game and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!