If the Timberwolves come out and play like they did vs. the Celtics on Monday, tonight could very well be the worst game of the season. The Wolves went into Monday's game in Boston assuming that they'd steamroll the inferior team like they did to the Celtics a month earlier at the Target Center. Instead, the found themselves in a close game and ended up on the wrong end of the scoreboard at the final buzzer.
The big difference between Boston & Portland? Boston is one of the terrible teams in the Eastern Conference, while the Blazers are the best team in basketball right now. Holding a prestigious 22-4 record, Portland is playing some incredible basketball.
No matter the year, no matter how good or bad the Wolves are and vice versa (how good or bad the Blazers are) doesn't seem like Portland always has the better team and always wins? Well, they've won the past five consecutive meetings and 21 of the last 23 overall which includes 10 of 11 at the Target Center. So, for roughly the past five-six seasons the Blazers have had little to no trouble with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Considering that both teams are probably the best they've been during that five-six season stretch, this should be a pretty good game.
The Wolves are hoping that Kevin Martin (knee) and Dante Cunningham (ankle) will be able to play tonight. They're both currently listed as gametime decisions. Regardless of whether they play or not; J.J. Barea, Alexey Shved, Robbie Hummel and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute will all likely see a bump in minutes tonight. The Wolves desperately need Kevin Martin's scoring, especially after Nikola Peković & Corey Brewer both had their worst games of the season on Monday in Boston. The Wolves will definitely be without Chase Budinger (knee) and Ronny Turiaf (elbow). Budinger has been cleared for full-contact practices starting tomorrow, however Turiaf's return date to the court still remains very unclear.
The Blazers made a few changes this offseason, bringing in Robin Lopez to replace J.J. Hickson who left via free agency to the Denver Nuggets. They also drastically overhauled the bench. They brought in Mo Williams, Earl Watson, Dorrell Wright & Thomas Robinson; while also picking up Allen Crabbe & (the currently injured) C.J. McCollum. I was uncertain that their new bench unit could be as effective as they have been, however when you consider how well their starting five played last season--with an improved bench, they were destined to be much improved. That being said, no one saw them being this good this season.
Minnesota needs to limit the drives to the rim tonight--especially against Lillard, Batum & Matthews. Kevin Love also has to play as well defensively against Aldridge as he did against another great Western Conference foe--Zach Randolph in Memphis. If the Wolves come out an shoot in the high-30s like they did against Boston, I guarantee the Wolves would lose by at least 30 points.
Tipoff is set for 7pmCST, enjoy the game and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!