Timberwolves vs. Trail Blazers: Another chance for a streak
The Timberwolves have yet another chance to begin building a winning streak, and Sunday evening against a division rival in the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Wolves have had yet another up-and-down week, but after closing the month of December with a 6-9 record, Minnesota will be looking for a much better January.
Of course, December was much better than October and November for the Timberwolves. It ended in strong fashion, with a 5-4 record over the past nine games, including a wire-to-wire, 17-point win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night.
The Portland Trail Blazers have had a rough start to the 2016-17 season as well, and given expectations for coach Terry Stotts’ squad, it’s perhaps been even more disappointing. After winning 51 games and claiming the Northwest Division crown in 2014-15 and landing the fifth seed last season, the Blazers are just 14-21 to this point.
And not only that, star point guard Damian Lillard has a sprained ankle and may not play on Sunday night.
Herein lies the preview for Sunday evening’s tilt…
Minnesota Timberwolves Preview
Record: 11-22 (6-11 home, 5-11 road)
PG – Ricky Rubio (7.3 PPG, 7.3 APG, 4.2 RPG, 1.8 SPG)
SG – Zach LaVine (21.1 PPG, 3.2 APG, 3.0 RPG)
SF – Andrew Wiggins (22.1 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 2.4 APG)
PF – Gorgui Dieng (10.4 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.3 BPG)
C – Karl Anthony-Towns (21.8 PPG, 11.4 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.4 BPG)
The Wolves need Muhammad and Bjelica to do exactly what they did against the Bucks if they’re going to attempt a run at the .500-mark this season. In fact, Friday night was nearly a picture-perfect example of what Tom Thibodeau is looking for.
Portland Trail Blazers Preview
Record: 14-21 (9-7 home, 5-14 road)
PG – Damian Lillard (27 PPG, 6.2 APG, 4.5 RPG)
SG – C.J. McCollum (22.3 PPG, 3.7 APG, 3.5 RPG)
SF – Al-Farouq Aminu (6.1 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 1.9 APG)
PF – Maurice Harkless (12.1 PPG, 5 RPG, 0.9 APG)
C – Mason Plumlee (10.9 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 4.2 APG)
Top reserve Allen Crabbe has started the last three games since Damian Lillard’s ankle injury. The start point guard is questionable to play on Sunday against the Wolves, so McCollum-Crabbe may be the Blazers’ starting back court once again.
Per usual for the Blazers, it’s a deep team with an effective bench. Lillard and McCollum are the only real scoring threats, with Harkless and Plumlee the only other players averaging over double-digits in points.
Three Things to Watch
1. The point guard match-up (will Lillard play?). The Timberwolves may not have to deal with Damian Lillard, but C.J. McCollum sliding over to the point guard spot is no slouch. Ricky Rubio has been playing better of late, but this is a true challenge.
2. Another Andrew Wiggins resurgence? Wiggins seems to be going in stretches of playing extremely well and following that up with failing to fill out any box score stats except for points — and those points haven’t exactly been efficient.
But on Friday night, Wiggins tallied 31 points, six rebounds, and five assists. The Wolves will need the former Rookie of the Year to come on strong if they’re going to begin to dig themselves out of the Western Conference cellar.
3. The long-ball. The Wolves have been on a tear from downtown of late, with Shabazz Muhammad and Zach LaVine leading the way against the Bucks. The Blazers are tied for the fifth-most three-point makes in the NBA, so the Wolves will have their work cut out for them to match Portland step-for-step from beyond the arc.
The Timberwolves have been on a win-one, lose-win streak of late. After the win Friday, it would make some sense to lose to a supposedly superior team in the Trail Blazers on Sunday night.
On the other hand, the Blazers could very well be without Lillard, and Portland is a staggering 5-14 on the road despite a winning record at home.
This should be a fun game, with or without Lillard. Let’s call it a 108-106 overtime win for the Timberwolves.
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