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Game #26: Blazing a New Trail

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After a lengthy and successful home stand, the Wolves now venture out West for a four-game road trip.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Minnesota Timberwolves Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Timberwolves (13-12) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (14-11)

9:00 CDT

Fox Sports North, NBATV

The last time the Wolves ventured West on the Oregon Trail for a multi-game road trip, the team was dealing with a strong case of dysentery brought on by their General. The results of that five-game road trip were about as dreadful as the symptoms of this historic disease, and resulted in the team finally moving on from their so-called “leader.”

It’s been exactly one month (29 days) since the Wolves traded Jimmy Butler for a package of Robert Covington, Dario Saric, and Jerryd Bayless, and the early results have been nothing short of fantastic. Since the infamous 0-5 road trip that led to the final Butler domino falling, the Wolves have been playing nothing short of beautiful (and entertaining) basketball, resulting in a 9-3 record since the trade (tied for the best record in the NBA during that span).

The improved play on the court and improved relationships off it have definitely fueled the Wolves’ resurgence, but so too has the schedule. 10 of the Wolves last 12 games have come at home, and only 2 of their last 9 wins have come against teams with a winning record (New Orleans and Portland). Conversely, 5 of the Wolves’ next 6 games will come against teams with a .500 or better record, providing the first real test this team has faced since that dreadful Saturday in November. How will the Wolves respond to the upcoming road trip? Only time will tell, but all arrows are currently pointing upward for the recharged and rejuvenated franchise.

As Eric wrote about on Friday, there are multiple things to point at when it comes to the Wolves resurrection, including Covington’s defense, Towns’ emergence in the fourth quarter, and lineup tweaks.

In addition to all of that has been the recent play of one Mr. Andrew Wiggins. Since closing out the final three games of November on a tryptophan overdose that resulted in Wiggins shooting 18% from the field (including a not-so-maximum effort of 0-for-12 against Chicago), the man known as Maple Jordan has responded quite nicely.

Since the calendar flipped to December, Wiggins is shooting 52% from the field, including 7-for-13 from beyond the arc. During that span, Wiggins has also attempted 14 free throws, which is a season high for him over a three-game span.

As a current resident of Wiggins Island who was without power for quite some time during November, this restoration couldn’t come at a better time. Yes, RoCo’s arrival has played an enormous part in the Wolves turning their season around, and the removal of General Soreness has prompted Towns to take over the leadership reigns once and for all. But, in the bigger picture, this franchise will only go as far as their “other” max player can help take them, so here’s to hoping the latest play from Wiggins is a step in the right direction, and not another flash in the pan.

Projected Starting Lineups

Wolves:

PG: Jeff Teague
SG: Andrew Wiggins
SF: Robert Covington
PF: Taj Gibson
C: Karl-Anthony Towns

T-Blazers:

PG: Damian Lillard
SG: C.J. McCollum
SF: Jake Layman
PF: Al-Farouq Aminu
C: Jusuf Nurkic

Injury Report

For the Wolves, Jerryd Bayless (knee) is still without a timetable for his return, and is officially OUT. As for the home team, C.J. McCollum (ankle) is PROBABLE.

I’ll be in attendance tonight at the Moda Center cheering on our Wolves, but as always, be sure to follow Canis Hoopus for in-game commentary and analysis. As for an alternative perspective on the game, be sure to check out our friends over at Blazers Edge.

Let’s go!