Trail Blazers/Timberwolves Pre-Game
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  1. DHawes22
    Posts: 6488

    Posted 02/27/2010 2:16 PM

    The Trail Blazers (34-27) must have a short memory, after losing a devastating, 115-111, overtime thriller in Chicago last night, as the next stop on the road trip takes them to Minnesota to face the talented, but inexperienced Wolves (14-46). Even though playing their fourth game in five nights is tough both physically and mentally, one aspect of the game this year's team has been able to master, in a season filled with adversities, has been the ability to play at a high level on the second half of a back to back. In such situations, Portland is a mind-boggling 11-3. Add to the face the Wolves will also be tired as they arrived after Portland to Minnesota, due to playing last night as well, only in Oklahoma City. Also, if there was one team the Trail Blazers want to see on the schedule its the Minnesota Timberwolves. Portland has defeated Minnesota 11 straight times, by far the longest active streak against any opponent (5 wins in a row over San Antonio is #2).

    Although the three previous meetings between the two teams this year has seen Portland win by an average of 24.67 points, those games were played very early in November with different personnel. For Portland, Oden and Przybilla were healthy and dominant and the Wolves were missing their own double-double machine in Kevin Love. Oden, in particular, will be missed tonight, as Minnesota was one franchise he really flourished against. During the course of the three games earlier this year, G.O. put up averages of 15 points, on 70.4% field goal shooting, 6.7 rebounds, and swatting 2 shots. The Target Center does not intimidate opponents as it once did, their home record of 9-20 is 2nd worst in the NBA, as is their overall record, but Blazer fans should not expect another blowout win tonight. A lot has changed since November and big, bruising front-courts, such as the one Portland will see tonight in Love and Jefferson, really have been able to push us around ever since Greg and Joel went down (see Memphis results).

    Speaking of Big Al Jeff and Love, Aldridge and Camby must bring their hardhats tonight. While both are effective at what they do, Aldridge scores and Camby block shots, each player is known for playing more of a finesse style of play. Like Z-Bo, who abused Aldridge to the tune of a three-game average of 19.7 points and 11.7 rebounds, Kevin Love is an undersized, rebounding machine at the power forward position. Both Love and Jefferson are tied for 12th in the NBA at putting up double-doubles with 27 a piece. Love's 27 double-doubles is even more impressive as he has one his work in only 40 games so far this year. If he had been healthy to start the season, he would be on pace for 46 double dips, good enough to be one behind Dwight Howard for first in the NBA. As great as each player is on offense, their defense is equally as bad. Just like last night in Chi-Town, Portland needs to exploit the Aldridge-Love matchup all game long and this time, do not forget to keep going to him!

    Two major keys to victory tonight are defense and bench play. Not unlike yesterday, Portland is playing a team in the lower half of the league in scoring, as the Wolves are 22nd at 97.61. Only this time around, the Blazers must not allow the Timberwolves to come near 100 points. Yes Chicago was hitting everything, but no matter how tough the shots are we need to make adjustments. Throw a zone or a trap at Minnesota if something they start to run becomes unstoppable.

    I think our bench this year is going to give me a heart attack. Can they put together more than one consistent game in a row? Rudy, Bayless, and Dante were all solid against Toronto, yet Bayless was the only one to show up against the Bulls. If the Trail Blazers can get 25 or more points from the bench, they should win with ease. Roy can score at will on Brewer and Miller should have no difficulties in posting up the much smaller Flynn, which the Minnesota coaching staff will be looking at closely, trying to neutralize each of those matchups. This is where the bench comes in. The more offensive weapons you throw at a squad, chances are the opposition won't have answers for each and every one of them.

    Portland will secure their third win on this road trip and 12th straight overall against Minnesota, but it won't be as easy as the prior three. Love and Jefferson will keep the Wolves close all night long, even pushing them to a small lead in the 2nd half. What will push Portland over the top is their offensive movement late in the game. After struggling again down the stretch, I believe the Blazers will make some changes and quit playing not to lose, instead opting to stay aggressive. To swing momentum onto Portland's court for good will be the defense of Camby and Batum, swatting away a few shots, leading to some much needed fast-break points.
    Game 62 Prediction: Trail Blazers 96 Timberwolves 91
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