The Wolves are facing the Blazers, a team that hasn't already handed them two defeats this season. The first coming in Portland on Nov. 23rd (103-95) and the second in Minnesota, a 102-97 loss. The Blazers have also won 19 of 21 in this series dating back to the 2007-08 season.
A big key to the Blazers success vs. the Wolves this season has been their hot shooting. Portland has absolutely torched Minnesota from deep, hitting a combined 27-for-49 (55.1%) from deep in their two meetings this season. The Blazers have been led in those games by their shooting guard Wesley Matthews. Matthews has been the "TWolves Killer" these past few seasons and this year has been no different. In these last two meetings he's scored a combined 56 points on 20-of-32 shooting, including 10-for-13 from deep! Matthews did sit out in Portland's last game (vs. the Jazz on Saturday) with an ankle injury, but remains optimistic he'll be ready to go tonight.
The Wolves snapped a six-game losing streak on Saturday when they absolutely crushed the New Orleans Hornets. The Wolves scored a season-high 115 points in the game on a season-high 58.4% shooting from the field. They'll look to build off that big win and hope that some of that hot shooting carries over to tonight. The Wolves have won just 2 games in their last 13 tries.
The Trailblazers have been struggling on the road lately and are currently riding a four-game road losing streak. In their last two road games the Blazers have really struggled scoring just 80.0ppg on 40% FG and 10-of-35 from deep (28.6%). They had lost six overall games in a row, but have turned things around lately, winning 4 of their last 6. Portland will be in search of their 10th win in 11 visits to the Target Center.
So, what do the Wolves need to do to secure a victory in this one?
- Perimeter defense. They have a nice trio of perimeter players in Lillard, Matthews & Batum that can all hit the long ball at a high clip. The Wolves' perimeter D has to step up in this one, otherwise it's going to be another long night with Matthews draining three after three.
- Establish the advantage in the paint early. The Wolves have outscored the Blazers 86-56 in their two meetings this season. Getting Pekovic going early will be key--he's averaging 19.5ppg & 12.5rpg vs. POR this season.
- Hit the glass. The Wolves can't afford another night where Andrei Kirilenko grabs zero rebounds (did so vs. the Lakers). It has to be a collective and concerted effort, everyone needs to crash the glass.
- During that game vs. the Lakers last week Luke Ridnour was continuously torched by the taller and superior Kobe Bryant. Assuming Matthews is healthy enough to play, Ridnour will be guarding him. Since that'll be the case, it's VERY likely that they'll look to establish that mismatch early and Adelman can't wait as long as he did in that Lakers matchup to bring in either Shved or Gelabale (someone with more height to challenge shots).
- Get Ricky Rubio going early. He was uber-aggressive in the first quarter of that win over the Hornets, helping the Wolves build that early lead. If Rubio can take it to the rack and get his scoring going early, he'll open up a lot of things for himself (playmaking-wise) for the remainder of the night--he's proved he's capable...now he just has to do it consistently.
The Wolves continue to play without Kevin Love (hand), Chase Budinger (knee), Brandon Roy (knees) and Malcolm Lee (knee/hip). The Blazers are without Elliot Williams (achilles tear--out for the season), Sasha Pavlovic (slight tear in his foot, out for 2-10 days) and Ronnie Price (ankle--missed Sat. vs. UTH). As I said before, Wes Matthews missed the Blazers' last game with an ankle injury. He remains optimistic he'll play tonight, but will be a gametime decision.
Let's take a look at the probable starting lineups....
Ricky Rubio (5.5P, 5.4A, 1.6S)
Luke Ridnour (11.8P, 2.8R, 4A, 1.1S)
Andrei Kirilenko (13.6P, 6.4R, 3.1A, 1.6S, 1.2B)
Derrick Williams (9.3P, 4.5R, 0.5B)
Nikola Pekovic (15.9P, 8.6R, 0.9B)
Damian Lillard (18.4P, 3.3R, 6.5A, 1S)
Wesley Matthews (15P, 2.9R, 2.7A, 1.5S)
Nicolas Batum (15.9P, 6.1R, 4.9A, 1.4S, 1.1B)
LaMarcus Aldridge (20.5P, 9R, 2.5A, 1.3B)
J.J. Hickson (13P, 10.8R, 0.8B)
This one will tipoff at 7pmCT from the Target Center, enjoy the game, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
P.S. How do you like the new header/banner?