Blazers at Wolves
8:00 pm CDT
The Wolves conclude their five game home stand with a nationally televised game against the Portland Trail Blazers tonight with a chance to go unbeaten. It’s been a terrific stretch for the Wolves, who have taken care of business against conference foes the New Orleans Pelicans and Oklahoma City Thunder, while also defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers and New York Knicks.
The Wolves continue to separate themselves from the teams below them in the Western Conference standings. There are five teams, including the Blazers, currently with either 20 or 21 losses on the season. These teams have bloodied each other, but the Wolves have managed to stay above that fray by losing only one game to the teams currently 5th-9th in the conference.
One of their wins was against this Blazers team at Target Center. Their 108-107 victory was a turning point in the Wolves season. That game was also at the end of a five game home stand, but the Wolves had split the first four and were coming off a particularly grim loss to the Phoenix Suns. They trailed the Blazers through much of the game, looking unhappy and unconnected, but Jamal Crawford and Jimmy Butler took over the fourth quarter, which the Wolves won by ten points, resulting in their one point win. Beginning with that game, the Wolves have gone 11-3 since, and seized control of the fourth spot in the West.
It’s part of their division dominance this season. The Wolves are 9-1 in the division, which is an amazing accomplishment. They have the opportunity tonight to push that record even higher and take a 2-0 season series lead on the Blazers.
The Blazers are of course led by their dynamic back court of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Those two average over 46 points per game, and are the offensive engine of the squad. Overall, the Blazers are a good three point shooting team, but don’t take all that many threes. Lillard, McCollum, and Al-Farouq Aminu are their main threats from beyond the arc, but their lack of interior offense has hurt them, and they are only average at that end overall.
Their defense, on the other hand, has been very good this season, a credit to Terry Stotts and their players. Despite starting a rather small back court, they are still among the leaders in opponent field goal percentage, and make it very tough on opposing offenses. Jusuf Nurkic is a hulking figure in the paint who is very hard to score against. They do a good job taking away three point looks and still contesting inside. The Wolves will have a size advantage on the wing, and will need the newly more dominant version of Karl-Anthony Towns to bring it as well.
The Blazers are ending a four game road trip that started with a win in Oklahoma City but was followed by losses in Houston and New Orleans. Hopefully the Wolves can saddle them with one more loss before they head home and the Wolves head out on the road.
Our blogging buddies are over at Blazers Edge. Be excellent.
Enjoy the game. Chat here. Go Wolves.