Game 37 Preview: Blazers vs. Timberwolves

Game Time:  5:00 p.m. Pacific  TV:  CSNNW

The 9-27 Minnesota Timberwolves are on the docket tonight.  In a tailspin worthy of Minnesota teams of yore, the 'Wolves have lost 18 of their last 23, their scarce victories coming almost exclusively against the dregs of the league.  Their misery is no mystery.  They have a couple of nice scorers in Kevin Love and Michael Beasley but that's all they have in the scoring department.  The ailing and inconsistent Martell Webster is the third man on their scoring chart with a 13.1 ppg average in 12 games played.  Luke Ridnour follows with 11.0 per game.  Nobody else on their roster manages double digits.  Their overall point total isn't bad at 102.8.  It's good for 8th in the league, in fact.  But opponents will take all the points in the world as long as Beasley doesn't go for 35 and Love doesn't notch 25 and 20.  Worse, the T-Wolves don't get fast break points and are on the low side of average in points in the paint, meaning they're having to work hard for most of those 102.  Three point shooting is their claim to fame as a team, but that's a fickle mistress upon which to build a long-term relationship.

Minnesota's defense isn't even a fickle mistress.  She's done stepped out on them and is cavorting with whomever into town.  The 'Wolves allow an NBA-worst 108.6 ppg.  Putting that into perspective, the Knicks have the best point-generating offense in the league with 107.8.  Whoever plays against Minnesota becomes, in essence, the best offensive team in the land for that night.  They're bad in plenty of categories.  They don't reach the league median in any significant defensive statistic.  Among their worst problems is free throw rate.  The 'Wolves can't defend without fouling, a state that ultimately makes "without fouling" an unnecessary appendage to the clause.

What do the Timberwolves do really well?  They're good offensive rebounders.  Thank you, Kevin Love.  Keep the Love Boat from sailing and they have nowhere else to go.  End of story.

This provides the key for Portland tonight:  shepherd the glass.  The danger inherent in this game is that the Blazers, often prey to wonky offensive nights, won't take the free gift that Minnesota offers and won't generate an insane point total.  If that's the case, the 'Wolves could get on a roll and make this a match...possibly even an over-match.  The safeguard is controlling that glass.  Minnesota needs possessions.  Minnesota needs easy putbacks.  Minnesota needs to feel in control of the game some way, somehow.  Superior board-work denies them all three and makes this an easy night.

Caveat:  As long as you hit your free throws.

See a more Minny-positive view at Canis Hoopus.

In the press last night, Dave didn't do a Jersey Contest form for this game, so it will remain undone.  The contest will resume Sunday.   You can see the scoreboard you missed from the other night here.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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