Trail Blazers-Timberwolves Preview

Kevin Love is hurt again, but the Minnesota Timberwolves

withstood his latest injury their last time out, and will have to

do so this time without point guard Ricky Rubio as well.

Without two of their top players, the Timberwolves will try to

beat their Northwest Division rivals for just the third time in

over five years Saturday night.

Love is nursing a sprained finger on his right hand, which

forced him to exit in the third quarter of Thursday’s 101-97 win at

Denver. He still finished with 12 points and 17 rebounds in 24

minutes.

He broke the same hand in October, missing the opening nine

games of the season, and he’s sat out a couple more last month with

eye and thumb ailments. The injuries have contributed to Love’s

35.2 percent shooting from the floor, nearly 10 percent less than

his career average.

“He said he could have played, but he couldn’t shoot,” coach

Rick Adelman said Thursday.

Rubio, whose minutes have been managed since recovering from

knee surgery, will miss his fourth straight game due to back spasms

that Adelman thinks is being caused by his point guard

overcompensating for his knee injury.

The Timberwolves (15-14) have dropped 18 of the last 20 meetings

with the Trail Blazers, while going 2-11 with Love, who is

averaging 17.8 points and 10.7 rebounds.

While Love will be missed in the frontcourt, J.J. Barea will try

to again fill Rubio’s void by looking to build on a strong

performance after totaling 17 points and five assists Thursday. He

had only four points while making 1 of 8 from the field, while the

Timberwolves shot a season-low 34.5 percent – 2 for 17 from long

range – in a 106-84 loss at Utah a day earlier.

Minnesota made 44.6 percent from the floor – 6 for 16 from

beyond the arc – against the Nuggets.

“You’re going to have a couple of games a year like we did in

Utah,” said guard Luke Ridnour, who had 14 points Thursday after

totaling 12 in the previous two games. “You just don’t want to have

too many of them. Fortunately, everybody bounced back.”

The Trail Blazers, 2-1 on this four-game road trip, had their

own bounce-back performance Friday, winning 86-84 at Memphis

following a 102-79 defeat to Toronto two days prior. They held the

Grizzlies to 39.5 percent from the floor after the Raptors hit

53.2.

“We have to be resilient,” guard Wesley Matthews said. “We have

players that have been through the fire. We are full of resilient

players.”

Another strong performance from Matthews would help. He had 21

points while hitting 5 of 8 3-pointers against the Grizzlies after

totaling 20 points in his first two games since missing six of the

previous nine with a strained left hip.

Portland (17-15) is 5-2 when he scores at least 20.

Matthews is averaging 21.5 points while converting 51.7 percent

of his shots from the floor over his past eight meetings with

Minnesota, including a season-high 30 points in a 103-95 victory

Nov. 23.

LaMarcus Aldridge, who will likely find himself matched up with

Love, managed 13 points in that game, but he’s averaging 23.0 over

the past four visits to the Target Center. He had 15 points and 12

rebounds while making 5 of 15 field goals Friday.