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Game 16: Wolves Host T-Blazers

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Minnesota looks to build on Wednesday’s refreshing victory

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Minnesota Timberwolves Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Timberwolves (6-9) vs Trail Blazers (10-4)

7:00 CST

FS North

After Minnesota’s victory on Wednesday against the Pelicans, the Wolves have provided some much needed optimism for the fanbase. They played loose and hard in their first action without General Soreness, and the new guys contributed nicely.

The main reason for the newfound optimism is that Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins were the driving forces in a victory over a team with high playoff hopes. The knock on these two guys has long been that they put up significant stats but don’t really contribute to winning as much as they should. Well, this is a winning sequence if I’ve ever seen one.

Along with that, Wiggins went 4-9 from the three-point line, which has continued his hot shooting from distance to start the season (41.7% on 5.5 attempts per game). We’ve seen hot stretches from Wiggins before, but it seems like he’s much more comfortable from deep this year. Wiggins being a consistent threat from the three-point line would open up countless possibilities for this Wolves offense.

The point of this tangent is that for the Wolves to be consistent winners, they need this type of play from their two cornerstones to be, well, consistent. That’s something that we haven’t always seen, and will be worth watching tonight.

Portland is another solid playoff team. They’ve arguably been the most impressive team in the Western Conference relative to their expectations. A win tonight and we may really have something here with this new-look Wolves team.

Obviously, the backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum is the driving force for Portland. I’m excited to see the likes of Josh Okogie and Robert Covington (Robo Coppington? Credit to the comment section on that one) chase these two around screens and make life difficult for them. It’ll be a great test for Andrew Wiggins defensively. He played with much more defensive energy than usual on Wednesday night, and he’ll need to play with that same energy tonight if Minnesota wants to contain this backcourt duo.

All year long I’ve complained about Minnesota’s pitiful performance when it comes to defensive rebounding. Maybe it paid off, as Minnesota actually won the rebounding battle against New Orleans. Crazy, they won that game!

Rebounding, specifically for KAT, is going to be extremely important tonight as Portland’s bigs crash the offensive glass HARD. Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins are animals on the boards, and if Minnesota doesn’t make an effort to block them out, they’ll be in trouble. I’m reasonably confident in our wings’ ability to at least keep Lillard and McCollum in check, but giving those guys extra possessions is a recipe for disaster.

Lastly, it’ll be interesting to watch how the rotation looks again tonight. If Derrick Rose returns, does that bump Tyus out entirely? That seems likely since he only got 11 minutes on Wednesday with Rose out. What about in the front court? It certainly seems like all signs point to a future KAT-Saric pairing with Tolliver-Gibson off the bench, and an absence of Gorgui Dieng entirely.

That’s what we speculate, at least. Your guess is as good as mine when it comes to what Thibs is going to do with this new roster.

Overall, this just feels kind of weird. Over these past few months, we’ve all become accustomed to the negativity that Butler had brought upon us.

Now, though, I feel optimistic about this team. I genuinely am excited to see this team play tonight. The way this team moved the ball on offense, specifically in the first half, and flew around on defense on Wednesday night was better than any Wolves team I can remember.

Who knows if it’ll continue, but I can promise you we should enjoy it while it lasts.

Projected Lineups

Wolves

Jeff Teague

Andrew Wiggins

Robert Covington

Taj Gibson

Karl-Anthony Towns

Blazers

Damian Lillard

C.J. McCollum

Jake Layman

Al-Farouq Aminu

Jusuf Nurkic

Injuries:

Minnesota - Derrick Rose (knee) questionable

Portland - Seth Curry (knee) out, Moe Harkless (knee) out