Preview: Portland Trail Blazers (17-15) @ Minnesota Timberwolves (15-14)


Fresh off a victory over the Zach Randolph-less Memphis Grizzlies in Memphis last night, the Portland Trail Blazers look for their 4th win in 5 games tonight at the Target Center against the Minnesota Timberwolves. The 7th-seeded Blazers sit a half game ahead of the 9th-place Wolves in the playoff picture.

Blazers probable starting lineup:

PG Damian Lillard

SG Wesley Matthews

SF Nicolas Batum

PF LaMarcus Aldridge

C J.J. Hickson

Portland attempts the 4th most 3s in the league while shooting them the 26th best (or 5th worst, depending how you choose to view it). Batum (7.1), Lillard (6.2), and Matthews (5.3) are the main gunners, with only Matthews shooting above average (40%).

Lillard has rightfully received the lion’s share of attention for rookie of the year (and a good portion of credit for the Blazers’ overachieving this season), averaging 37 minutes, 18 points, 6 assists and a steal per game while shooting 41% from the field and 35.9% from 3. He’s hit big shots for the Blazers in tough games all year and given them a penetrator to take the pressure off of their perimeter players, Matthews, Aldridge and Batum.

Wolves probable starters:

PG Luke Ridnour

SG Alexey Shved

SF Andrei Kirilenko

PF Dante Cunningham

C Nikola Pekovic

Both Love and Rubio will sit out tonight’s game. Love due to his sprained finger against Denver and Rubio as an extra precaution due to his back spasms earlier this week. Former Blazer, Cunningham or Derrick Williams will get the starting nod in Love’s stead, but the onus will be on Pekovic.

Pek is likely to receive interest from the Blazers this offseason as they attempt to seriously fudge up Glen Taylor’s balance sheet shore up their front line. Tonight will be just another audition for Pek, who should absolutely crush Hickson — who’s actually been having a breakout year for Portland.

While Lillard has been front and center in the rookie of the year spotlight, Shved has been more than solid — and didn’t shrink from Andre Iguodala’s attention in the Wolves win at Denver. Before Ridnour decided to start making his shots and JJ Barea took over in the 4th quarter, it was Alexey who was holding the ship on course, and became the benefactor of a little rest. Hopefully, he’ll get to show Lillard — not much of a two-way player — and the voting press, a little something.

Tags: Alexey Shved Damian Lillard Minnesota Timberwolves Portland Trail Blazers Preview

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