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Game Preview #79: Wolves vs Blazers

An aggressively tanking Portland squad rides into Minneapolis to take on a Timberwolves team still recovering from a nasty illness going around the locker room.

Portland Trail Blazers v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Game Info

Injury Reports



  • Jaylen Nowell — Left Knee Tendinopathy
  • Austin Rivers — Illness
  • Anthony Edwards — Illness
  • Karl-Anthony Towns — Illness


  • Naz Reid - Left Scaphoid Fracture



  • Trendon Watford - Left Ankle Sprain
  • Jeenathan Williams - Not With Team


  • Cam Reddish - Lumbar Soreness


  • Damian Lillard - Right Calf Tightness
  • Jerami Grant - Left Quad Contusion
  • Jusuf Nurkic - Right Knee Soreness
  • Anfernee Simons - Right Foot Soreness
  • Nassir Little - Right Knee Soreness
  • Keon Johnson - Right 5th Finger Fracture
  • Ibou Badji - Left Knee Surgery Recovery

What to Watch For

Minnesota Timberwolves v Sacramento Kings Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Who Will Step Up Off the Bench?

Naz Reid has been one of the most effective bench players in the league this season, and we saw how woeful the Timberwolves’ bench looked with out him against the Los Angeles Lakers. Aside from the Reid injury, Jaylen Nowell is also battling knee issues while the remainder of the team is plagued by illness. Regardless, someone other than Kyle Anderson (honorary starter) needs to prove they can make a shot.

Against the Lakers, the Timberwolves only played three players off the bench other than Anderson. Those three combined for 2-16 shooting, three turnovers, and three fouls. Taurean Prince was the most egregious culprit as he shot 2-10 overall and 1-7 from three while recording a game low plus/minus of -22. Jordan McLaughlin wasn’t free of criticism either as he was 0-5 overall, 0-3 from three, had three turnovers, and the second worst plus/minus of -16. He consistently acquiesced to the Lakers invitations that immediately produced destructive basketball.

This shouldn’t be all doom and gloom, though, because we’ve seen both players take over games and have brilliant performances. The concern is that those frequently came while Reid was also on the floor. The lineups that consisted of mostly bench players and a center with no offensive creation ability tended to stall out quickly. This is a great opportunity to experiment with lineups and find that spark again for the players off the bench.

Portland Trail Blazers v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Take Advantage of the Tank

The Blazers are plummeting down the standings due to their masterful tank job in back-to-back seasons. Last season, the Blazers littered the floor with players that 95% of NBA fans had never heard of. As we head down the final stretch of this season, it feels like déjà vu.

The only to really keep an eye on is Shaedon Sharpe, the Blazer’s rookie with really fascinating upside. Sharpe still has a long way to go in terms of being an all-around impactful player, but his athletic and offensive tools are seductive. In their last game, Sharpe took 20 shots and had a usage of 30%, per Cleaning the Glass. So far this season, Sharpe’s usage rate is just 16.1% and he’s had more that 15 shot attempts only four times, all of which have come in his last six games.

The point is, the Blazers are begging the Timberwolves to win this game. For a team in desperate need of a win, this is well-timed. However, the Timberwolves have had a tendency all season to play to the level of their opponents. We’ve seen them give away wins, fail to close out games, and miss out on should-be blow outs. There is no excuse today for anything other than a massive win.

Golden State Warriors v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Will the Kids Get Some Run?

The Blazers are running out their G-League team today, and the hope should be that the Timberwolves can quickly do the same. Karl-Anthony Towns is still recovering from his calf injury, Rudy Gobert continues picking up bumps and bruises, and Anthony Edwards is vomiting during half-times. The sooner the Timberwolves can build a gargantuan lead and rest their stars the better.

We haven’t seen Josh Minott or Wendell Moore Jr. in the last six games and only three times in the last 19. This should be a perfect opportunity for them to get substantial minutes. If this happens, there are a myriad of benefits highlighted by the win. The illness that’s been migrating between teammates has clearly drained them. Plenty of them are trying to battle through it, but their energy levels from just a few days ago are night and day. It would be ideal for them if they can get some extra rest before a tough game against the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday. Additionally, this should be one of the few remaining opportunities for the young guys to play. By getting Minott and Moore extended minutes, it will only help them improve their games and audition for a more prominent role next season. Additionally, players like Luka Garza and Nathan Knight could show off their skills for either the Timberwolves or potential future suitors. Getting the win against this depleted Blazers team is the ultimate goal, but the Timberwolves should do it in such a fashion that be barely see the starters in the second half.