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Portland Trailblazers (18-18) vs Minnesota Timberwolves (18-19)
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Last game: Minnesota: L, 104-95 vs Phoenix, Portland: L, 107-93 vs Miami
When I was a kid, I desperately wanted to be an NBA player, like most of us who spend time on these blogs. Nights like last night make me kind of glad I never achieved that ambition (although paychecks like the ones I get bring me back pretty quickly). Minnesota played well in the first half before completely losing their legs in the second, which was understandable for a team on the third night of a back to back to back. Still, Thursday’s game had playoff implications, and Minnesota can’t be pleased with the result.
Neither can Portland, although they can also take minimal comfort in an explicable loss. The Blazers ran right into a chainsaw, a Heat team that looks utterly unbeatable at present. LeBron scored 38, had several highlight real alley-oops, and generally looked like the best player in the world. The Blazers threatened in the 4th quarter, cutting a 20 point lead to 10, but couldn’t get closer than that. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 20 in the loss.
The Key Questions
#1. Is one day long enough to rest after the grueling three day stretch Minnesota just endured?
The Wolves certainly better hope so, because the schedule doesn’t get any easier after tonight. Minnesota plays Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday next week, including games against the Clippers (again), the Lakers (again), the Blazers (again) and the Hornets. I see you, NBA schedule makers.
#2. Can Minnesota deal with Portland’s length?
Or: can Minnesota deal with LaMarcus Aldridge? Pekovic might struggle with Marcus Camby, but he should be able to outmuscle him close to the hoop. Aldridge, however, had a grudge against Kevin Love last year for stealing his All-Star game appearance. This wasn’t good news for Love, who struggled against Aldridge’s length and athleticism.
This year, Aldridge’s numbers are up again. He could do some serious damage against Minnesota.
#3. Why does God hate JJ Barea?
Seriously, what did Barea do over the summer? The man is a professional basketball player (and thus a millionaire). He has a championship ring. He’s dating a former Miss Universe. Something he was doing was very right.
Then Barea winds up in chilly Minnesota with a team that won 17 games last year, and he can’t stay on the court because of injuries. I’m just saying…something feels fishy.
The Key Matchups
Wes Johnson will probably struggle against Gerald Wallace. Wallace is a hard-worker who plays incredibly aggressive basketball. Beasley might be a better matchup against Wallace, with his size and athleticism, but if Beas starts coasting at all, Wallace could make him pay.
Jamal Crawford started the last two games for Portland in place of Raymond Felton, who had fallen out of favor with the coaching staff. Minnesota had a shot at Crawford this summer, but decided to chase Barea instead. Try not to think about it as Crawford hits every single shot that Minnesota tends to miss.
Quite a bit of tonight’s game depends on how fresh the Wolves are feeling. If Minnesota has their legs back, they could beat a sliding Portland team and claim 9th place in the conference. If they are still tired, Portland’s raucous Rose Garden crowd could help lift the Blazers to a win.
Game starts at 9 on Fox Sports North.