Trail Blazers at Timberwolves
The Trail Blazers and Timberwolves square off this evening for the first time this season. Portland is shaking off their New Year’s Eve hangovers, trying to forget what regrettable decisions they made last night and basically the entire month of December, and traveling east to the friendly confines of Target Center. They are currently 4th in the Northwest Division with a 14-21 record and a 5-14 record on the road, however, the majority of those wins took place earlier in the season. Since the start of December, the Blazers have only won four games and have amassed a 1-8 record to close out the month. To be fair, they did play Golden State, Denver, Toronto, and San Antonio (twice) during that stretch, but it’s still not a positive trend for team thought to be a playoff contender at the start of the season.
So what’s happening with the Blazers? Mainly, Damian Lamonte Ollie Lillard. He suffered a high ankle sprain a week ago against the Spurs and has missed the last three games. It uncertain whether or not he will be available for the game this evening which is not a good sign for Portland. If he doesn’t play, they’re losing 27 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 6.2 assists per game as well as a PER of 24.5 and an eFG% of 52.0. I’m not a stats guy, but those look like some tasty numbers right there.
Now, if one was to listen to the words of a curmudgeonly George Karl, the reason for the Trail Blazers disappointing start to the season is directly because of Damian Lillard. Karl is on a promotional tour for his new book and is burning down bridges, villages, and his hall of fame coaching reputation in the process. When asked about his comments about Lillard, Karl told The Portland Tribune, “The attention and status Lillard is getting as an MVP candidate is bothering other people.”
Jealousy, once again, rears its ugly head. I can see exactly what’s happening in the Trail Blazers locker room. Mason Plumlee is probably thinking, “Look at that guy, wearing number zero, scoring all of those points, giving me assists so that I can score, helping us win games. Screw that guy. I should be the MVP candidate! I’m going to intentionally play worse so that he doesn’t get a chance to be a star. That will show him.”
There’s a possibility that Krazy Karl’s theory will be put to the test this evening. With Lillard potentially out, the Blazers will be able to rally around....C.J McCollum, I guess? The fourth year man out of Lehigh is having his best professional season, building on the momentum from last year’s breakout, MIP award-winning, season. He’s averaging 22.3 points per game and is shooting flames from three. He’s currently 13th in the league with a three-point percentage of 42.8 (Lavine is 19th with 41.7 in comparison).
The other players that we should watch out for in Lillard’s absence are the previously mentioned Mason Plumlee (10.9 pts, 7.5 rbs, 4.2 asts), Moe Harkless (12.1 pts, 5 rbs), and Evan Turner (I’m stretching here).
Overall, the teams are very similar in overall ratings and record. They are both high-octane offenses that have yet to grasp their coaches defensive schemes (come on Thibs dust! Start working, please). Offensively, the Blazers are ranked 9th overall. The Wolves are 8th. Defensively, and it pains me to say this, the Blazers are 30th, the Wolves are 27th. If you love defensive battles, have your League Pass set for the Memphis Grindhouse every night, DO NOT watch this game. This one is not for you.
This game is especially important for the Wolves. There’s probably no Lillard, it’s at the friendly confines, it’s a team that the Wolves need to hurdle for the 8th spot in the West, and it’s the start of a new year. My hungover brain needs a Timberwolves victory to start the year off well. Come on guys! Do it for my brain.
Team EFG Percentage
Timberwolves: 50.5 percent
Trail Blazers: 51.7 percent
Team Free Throw Rate
Timberwolves: 22.7 percent
Trail Blazers: 22 percent
Team Turn Over Percentage
Timberwolves: 13.3 percent
Trail Blazers: 12.4 percent
Team Offensive Rebounding
Timberwolves: 28.1 percent
Trail Blazers: 21.7 percent
Our blogging buddies are over at Blazers Edge. Be excellent. Please.