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Game Preview #27: Wolves at Trail Blazers

The Wolves’ two-game series concludes in Portland with a chance for the Wolves to show what they learned from Saturday.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

Game Info

What To Watch For

The Timberwolves are coming off an entertaining but disappointing 124-118 loss in Portland Saturday. Now they get the chance for revenge on the Trail Blazers’ home floor to stay above .500 for the year.

Here’s what intrigues me heading into tonight’s game:

Minnesota Timberwolves v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Cameron Browne/NBAE via Getty Images

What adjustments do Wolves make?

These two-game series in one city offer a unique chance during the NBA’s regular season for coaches and players to take what they learned from the first game and apply it in the second. In that way, it’s similar to part of a playoff series, so expect some real intensity between these teams tonight.

There are plenty of areas ripe for improvement where Wolves Head Coach Chris Finch and Co. could make some tweaks. Top of mind is the defensive approach to Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons, who combined for 67 points Saturday.

Lillard got to the line for 15 free throw attempts, so it would be logical for the Wolves to get less handsy with him. Simons, meanwhile, made his living by attacking space off screens, so perhaps Minnesota will look to close that off by bringing the screener’s man up slightly.

It will also be interesting to see the consistency of Minnesota’s offensive flow. The Wolves’ pace and ball movement was fantastic in a 66-point first half Saturday, but the Blazers’ switching defense and some ill-timed hero ball got them stuck in the mud in the second. Look for Finch to emphasize that circulative energy throughout tonight’s game.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Cameron Browne/NBAE via Getty Images

Will Wolves do the grunt work this time around?

A big reason the Blazers won on Saturday was their success the tough, gritty aspects of the game. They turned 11 offensive rebounds into 22 second-chance points and plowed their way to 28 shots at the free throw line.

Minnesota has to match that physicality if it wants a good chance to win tonight. They did a solid job by getting to the line 24 times but left six points on the board when they got there. More dire is the rebounding, where Portland had a 45-28 overall advantage.

Finch bemoaned the fact that his team didn’t get into Portland’s bodies and swarm them. Doing this isn’t just about reducing that rebound deficit on the stat sheet; it’s about dictating the terms of the game rather than allowing the Blazers to do so. Getting into players such as Lillard and Simons early (and legally) will keep them from getting to their spots, which will reduce their scoring opportunities from the field and the line.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

Gobert continuing to acclimate to offense

Saturday made the first time Rudy Gobert scored 20-plus points in two straight games as a Timberwolf per Basketball-Reference. He spoke after the game about how he and his teammates are building trust and how key his efforts to be aggressive are to that.

Minnesota will certainly need more of this caliber of play from Gobert with Karl-Anthony Towns out. Aside from minutes played alongside Naz Reid, Gobert will be the only major interior force for the Wolves when he’s on the court. It’s crucial that he continue to elevate that chemistry with the other Wolves to maximize those scoring opportunities at the basket.

D’Angelo Russell is getting better at finding Gobert in the pick-and-roll, and Kyle Anderson has thrown some beautiful passes to find the big man at the rim. When Gobert is a threat to score — and Minnesota’s other players are threats to find him — it opens up space for driving and finishing lanes. The more Gobert scores within the offense, without forcing him the ball, the better things will be for everyone else.

Injury Reports



  • Jordan McLaughlin (left calf strain)


  • Taurean Prince (right shoulder sublaxation)
  • Karl-Anthony Towns (right calf strain)



  • Drew Eubanks (right hip contusion)
  • Josh Hart (left ankle sprain)
  • Justise Winslow (right groin soreness)


  • Greg Brown III (G League assignment)
  • Nassir Little (right femoral head impaction fracture)
  • Gary Payton II (return to competition reconditioning)