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Wolves vs. Blazers: Through the Finish Line

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The Timberwolves are officially eliminated from the playoffs, but Tom Thibodeau’s game plan isn’t changing.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Minnesota Timberwolves Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers extended their winning streak to six games on Saturday night with a 130-117 win over the Phoenix Suns.

And in doing so, the Blazers officially eliminated the Minnesota Timberwolves from playoff contention.

Roughly a month ago, Minnesota and Portland were trailing Denver for the eighth seed in the Western Conference. But it’s Portland who has risen to the challenge, winning 14 of its last 17 games and now leading Denver by two games for the final playoff spot.

That was what the Timberwolves were supposed to do.

Instead, the Wolves are once again spending the month of April competing in games that have no significance other than lottery position.

But that doesn’t mean head coach Tom Thibodeau is taking his foot off the gas.

“You have to run through the finish line,” Thibodeau said in this article from Jace Frederick at the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “Every day we have to make corrections, we have to improve, we have to get better. Our best players have to lead. Everyone has a job to do.”

Thibodeau’s anti-tank campaign continues tonight as his team hosts the red hot Blazers tonight at Target Center.

Expected Starting Lineups

Timberwolves

PG - Ricky Rubio

SG - Andrew Wiggins

SF - Brandon Rush

PF - Gorgui Dieng

C - Karl-Anthony Towns

INJURIES: Zach LaVine (knee), Nemanja Bjelica (foot) and Nikola Pekovic (Achilles) are OUT.

Blazers

PG - Damian Lillard

SG - CJ McCollum

SF - Maurice Harkless

PF - Noah Vonleh

C - Meyers Leonard

INJURIES: Jusuf Nurkic (leg), Festus Ezeli (knee) and Ed Davis (shoulder) are OUT.

Four Factors

As we always do in game previews, let’s take a look at how the Wolves and Blazers match up using the Four Factors. Reminder, the Four Factors are effective field goal percentage (eFG%), turnover percentage (TOV%), offensive rebounding percentage (ORB%), and free throw rate (FTR).

Factor / Wolves / Blazers

eFG% / 51.1% / 52.2%

TOV% / 14.5 / 13.9

ORB% / 27.3% / 23.1%

FTR / .287 / .279

Prediction: CJ McCollum always seems to give the Wolves problems, and that will continue tonight. Karl-Anthony Towns will put up big numbers against a depleted frontcourt, but it won’t be enough.

Portland 108, Minnesota 102