Trail Blazers vs Timberwolves Saturday, 01/05/13 AT 05:00PM

Trail Blazers Wrap-Up Road Trip In Minnesota

01/05/13
  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0

    BY ERIK GUNDERSEN

    The Trail Blazers (17-15) are in Minnesota tonight to face the Timberwolves (15-14) in an important divisional game and the last game of this tough four-games-in-five-nights road trip. The game will tip-off at 5PM and will be shown on CSNNW and can be heard on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.

        •    Minnesota will be without Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love this evening. That will change things slightly for the Trail Blazers as they will now focus more energy on Nikola Pekovic, Alexey Shved and Andrei Kirilienko. The Trail Blazers are still in a dangerous position. After their big win against the Knicks in New York, the Trail Blazers suffered a let down and were outplayed  by the Raptors in Toronto. With Minnesota's two biggest stars out, the potential for a letdown is still there, but hopefully, as they've been able to do many times throughout this season, they will be able to correct their mistakes. Even without Love and Rubio, the Timberwolves are a very good defensive team (sixth in the NBA) and they still have lots of weapons that can hurt you if you don't respect them. Pekovic is one of the best finishers around the rim in the NBA and Kirilenko is dangerous as a cutter. Their backcourt of Luke Ridnour and the russian rookie Shved (who's probably been the second best rookie guard in the league) also commands respect.
        
    •    The previous match-up between these two teams was quite a battle. The day after Thanksgiving was a battle and it was also one of Portland's more complete games. It was also one of their better defensive performances from early in the season, which followed probably their worst performance of the year on that end in Phoenix. Portland was out rebounded by 14 and Pekovic (18 points, 10 rebounds) and Love (24 points, 13 rebounds) had monster games on the glass, but were forced to score from the free-throw line. The Timberwolves lacked an offensive rhythm after a good first quarter and Portland shut them down late, holding them to 17 points in the final period. Portland also needed 30 points from Wesley Matthews and 28 from Damian Lillard to win that game. Look for the Trail Blazers guards to have another good game tonight. The Timberwolves are big and give teams problems but their guards are undersized. The three-point shot was also a major weapon used by the Trail Blazers, as they went 11 of 25 (44 percent) from deep. The Timberwolves were a .500 team with Rubio and Love, but there shouldn't be any surprises and if Portland comes prepared to play, they should be able to go 3-1 on a road trip many were thinking would be a success with one win.
        
    •    The T'Wolves, much like the Grizzlies are a very good rebounding team. Last night JJ Hickson and LaMarcus Aldridge both grabbed double-digit rebounds and helped Portland narrow Memphis' advantage on the glass to only four rebounds. Portland was dominated on the glass in the last match-up and another performance like the one they had last night would be welcome. When Pekovic goes to the bench, that will give Portland an opportunity to play Luke Babbitt at power forward, where he's been a very effective "stretch-four" player. Babbitt has been able to rebound well and a good showing from him, or anybody else from the Trail Blazers bench will be huge. After the tough game they had last night, the legs of Portland's stars will likely be very tired and a punch from the bench will be important to helping them finish this tough road trip on a high note.

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