Blazers at Wolves
7:00 pm CDT
If you can’t remember the last time the Wolves and Blazers met, I can’t blame you; the teams faced off three times by December 8th (with the Blazers winning two) and haven’t seen each other since.
The Blazers are currently sitting 4th in the Western Conference, a half game behind 3rd place Houston and two games clear of the Utah Jazz in 5th, but given their injury situation that sounds better than it probably is.
Portland has suffered two injuries to key players at a really bad time. C.J. McCollum has been out for a while with a knee injury and has not traveled with the team on this road trip. They hope to get him back before the end of the season and ready for the playoffs.
There are no such hopes for Jusuf Nurkic, the center who has had a terrific season. He broke his leg in a gruesome incident a week ago, and will miss the remainder of the season. Hopefully he is able to come back at some point, because the league is more fun with Nurk in it, but it was a terrible injury.
The Blazers have the third best offense in the league overall, but missing their second and third options can’t help; it puts a ton of pressure on their All-Star guard Damian Lillard, who just seems to keep getting better. He’s having an All-NBA type season, and certainly deserves the recognition.
It’s hard to know what the Blazers will look like without McCollum and Nurkic, but they will certainly rely on Lillard and recently acquired Enes Kanter for offense. They are coming off a 99-90 loss in Detroit, but had won seven in a row before that. Of course, most of those were with Nurkic.
The Wolves find themselves in a situation where many would argue they are better off losing to try to solidify the best lottery position they can, but have a coach and many players who are playing for jobs next season. As usual, they have been much better at home recently than on the road, with a big win over the Warriors followed by a close but ultimately frustrating loss to the Sixers. Expect Karl-Anthony Towns to break out of the mini-slump he’s been in the last three games; not having to battle a giant like Nurkic should help.
Our friends over at Blazers Edge have the Portland story. Be excellent.