What To Watch For
After an impressive home victory on Sunday against the Brooklyn Nets, the Minnesota Timberwolves are once again traveling this week as they head out for a week-long Western Conference road trip.
The first stop on their journey is a game tonight in Portland against the Trail Blazers (T-Blazers for short), before then heading out for an incredibly difficult road back-to-back against the Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns (two teams that just so happen to have the two best records in the NBA).
Back to tonight’s opponent — despite being without Damian Lillard for roughly half the season thus far, the Blazers have found a little momentum as of late, led mostly by 1) the return of C.J. McCollum and 2) the emergence of 22-year old guard Anfernee Simons. Despite being drafted back in 2018, Simons is still one of the younger players in the NBA, and has stepped up in the absence of Lillard to tally career highs so far this season in points per game (15.2), assists per game (3.4), and steals per game (0.5).
At 20-26, it’s clearly been a disappointing season thus far for the Blazers, but the man that many Portland fans also refer to as “ANT” has been one of the lone bright spots for the team and will definitely be looking to build upon the big game he had against Minnesota back in early December.
I asked Anthony Edwards about Anfernee Simons’ big night and whether or not there’s enough room in the NBA for two ANT’s.— Kyle Theige (@KyleTheige) December 13, 2021
His response: pic.twitter.com/4E9Wx28jIn
As for the Timberwolves — they are riding another two-game winning streak and will look to take care of business tonight before a grueling stretch of games (including Golden State, Phoenix, and then Utah at home on Sunday). A win tonight would put Minnesota OVER .500 for the first time since November 29, and when you consider how wide open the middle of the Western Conference is right now, there’s no reason that the Wolves shouldn’t be able to play themselves OUT of the play-in tournament altogether and shoot for one of the top six seeds (they are currently 1.5 games behind 6th-seeded Denver).
Wolves begin a 3-game road trip tonight vs. Blazers looking to do something they haven't done in 17 years...— Alan Horton (@WolvesRadio) January 25, 2022
That's win twice in Portland in the same season.
It's only happened twice in the franchise's 33-year history (04/05, 02/03).
Minnesota @Timberwolves Status Update in advance of tomorrow’s game at Portland:— Timberwolves PR (@Twolves_PR) January 25, 2022
Beverley - Right Ankle Sprain
Bolmaro - G League, On Assignment
First and foremost — the biggest takeaway from the injury report sent out on Monday night by the team is that Anthony Edwards is nowhere to be found (which is GREAT news). After banging knees late in the fourth quarter against the Nets, it didn’t look great for ANT-Man’s status this week (he had to be helped back to the locker room), but as Edwards himself said after the game on his Instagram stories “I’m good y’all.”
The other key player to monitor tonight is Patrick Beverley, who (at the time of writing this early Tuesday morning) is currently listed as QUESTIONABLE tonight with that right ankle sprain. According to people who know stuff, Beverley was close to suiting up on Sunday against the Nets, so it would not shock me if we see him in the starting lineup tonight alongside D’Angelo Russell. If he DOES play, that will be a big boost to the Wolves as they try to slow down the hot-shooting Blazers backcourt of Simons and McCollum.
As for tonight’s opponent, their injury report is far more detailed:
Robert Covington (left fifth finger), Dennis Smith Jr. (right ankle) and Nassir Little (right knee) are probable; Damian Lillard (core muscle recovery), Larry Nance Jr. (right knee inflammation) and Cody Zeller (right patellar fracture) are out for Tuesday’s game vs. Minnesota.— Casey Holdahl (@CHold) January 24, 2022
As mentioned at the top — Damian Lillard continues to be OUT as he recovers from a core muscle injury, and both Cody Zeller and Larry Nance, Jr. are also OUT with various knee injuries.
The good news for Portland is that Robert Covington is expected to play tonight, as is Dennis Smith, Jr. Wolves fans will also get an extended look tonight at Nassir Little, the third-year man out of North Carolina who has also been putting together a career year for the Blazers.
Prediction time — the Wolves have won the last three games that I’ve attended/covered in person, and I don’t expect that streak to end as I head over to Moda Center later tonight. With Edwards IN and Lillard OUT, Minnesota should once again have a steep talent advantage, and it should result in a solid victory before the schedule tightens up later this week. Wolves 124, Blazers 113.