Feb. 24, 2013; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers shooting guard Wesley Matthews (2) celebrates after hitting a three point shot during the fourth quarter of the game against the Boston Celtics at the Rose Garden. The Blazers won the game 92-86. Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Preview: Minnesota Timberwolves (20-35) @ Portland Trail Blazers (26-31)

The Blazers haven’t won back-to-back games since they squeaked out a 100-98 win at Target Center, February 4th. Since then, they’ve had a 7-game losing streak and split their last 2. Add it up and it spells a 2-8 record over their last 10. Combine that with a negative point differential of -2.9 on the season and the fact they have yet (YET!) to sustain any major — or even medium-sized — injuries to expose their utter lack of depth, and you have to chuckle a little bit if you hear talk of Portland in the playoffs.

As it stands today, the Blazers are 4 1/2 games behind Houston out of the 8th spot.

Blazers probable starting lineup:

PG Damian Lillard

SG Wesley Matthews

SF Nicolas Batum

PF LaMarcus Aldridge

C J.J. Hickson

Lillard’s been shooting 39% from the field (30% from 3) over his last 5, scoring 18 points a game and dishing out 5 assists over that span.

Batum also has struggled shooting the ball at 41% from the field over the last 5.

Matthews has had a season-high 5 3-pointers made 3 times this season and twice he has done it against the Wolves. The 3rd game he had 4 by halftime. Matthews is 3 games removed from ankle troubles. He’s shot 51% since sitting out a couple games. So he’s rounding into shape just in time to attempt to break his season high in 3s made.

Wolves probable starting lineup:

PG Ricky Rubio

SG Luke Ridnour

SF Derrick Williams

PF Dante Cunningham

C Greg Stiemsma

The record and the roster both appear to be the stuff of lottery-bound misfits. Andrei Kirilenko went down in Phoenix. Nikola Pekovic went down against the Lakers. If there was any doubt the dog days were upon us, this should be the white flag.

Ricky Rubio and Derrick Williams would appear to be playing the part of future attractions, wetting the appetite for the Wolves’ marketing department to be greasing the skids for all those prospective season ticket buyers.

If Williams wasn’t auditioning for his next team, it would be just that. The guy is still prone to mess the bed (witness the 3-14 night at OKC), but his progress has been undeniable: Limiting the mud runs, rebounding the ball and holding his own on a Timberwolves defense that’s been left scrambling for answers on good nights. Over the last 5 games, Williams has averaged 17 points and 9 rebounds on 47% shooting while beginning to rediscover his 3-point stroke.

Meanwhile, Ricky has been in the midst of redefining himself only 71 games into his career, finding his way to the free throw line, picking his spots for jumpers and rallying the Wolves back over and over again. Rubio’s at 12 points, 10 assists, 6 rebounds and 4 steals a game over the last 5.

And for evidence, there’s this:

http://youtu.be/hSOtCbIF1as

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