Game Time: 5:00 p.m. Pacific TV: Comcast
Somehow this opponent feels oddly familiar. Ah yes...the Timberwolves. That would be the team we just racked up by 23 two games ago. The 'Wolves will be hoping that a return to the frozen confines of Target Center will allow them the opportunity to change from their secret identity "The Anti-Transition-Defense Legion" into the Super Mega Wonder Dominance Brigade (plus Corey Brewer). Perhaps the throaty roar of their hometown fans will provide them the energy they need to seize control of the boards, the tempo, and the painted area away from the Blazers. Well, OK...admittedly it's more like scattered coughs from their fans at this point. And that's not a knock on Minnesota fandom. I remember the years before Marbury and Garnett arrived and how much that franchise suffered. I also remember vividly the discussion that surrounded Stephon and Kevin and how much confidence the community held that the team had entered a new, possibly championship-quality, era with their arrival. It was actually pretty cruel to have that optimism run through the wringer because the collective talent level of that duo was top scale but the collective nuttiness quotient broke the meter. (Sprewell didn't help later either.) As anyone who watches their feeds on League Pass knows, the Timberwolves' latest ad campaign slogan is "We really, really, really screwed every pooch we've ever had. So...do over?" I'm not kidding. And I'm not sure it's helping. It's hard not to imagine fans quoting the illustrious Montgomery Scott, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me tw...HOW much for season tickets?!? HA HA HA HA HA!!! That's rich!"
In any case the Blazers do have to be ready for the dreaded revenge game tonight. It's a back-to-back for Portland. Minnesota played on Monday night, losing 105 to 192,000,000,000 to Golden State. So it's not just the Blazers that the Timberwolves are seeking revenge against. It's the universe. Those games are always dangerous.
Portland played pretty much the textbook game against Minnesota the other night. The Blazers have better talent and more cohesion. If they can evidence even a small bit of will the game should be theirs. Give the struggling puppies some confidence, however, and they'll bite you all night. You might still win but you'll get scratched up. And you could lose, in effect undoing the good work of the night before.
Defensively the Blazers need to let Jonny Flynn shoot but not penetrate, run, or create for others. If they can manage to do that while keeping a man somewhere near Al Jefferson Minnesota will have a difficult time generating enough points to matter. Keeping at least even on the boards, particularly limiting the 'Wolves second-chance points, is important. On offense take advantage of their relative slowness of foot and lack of commitment. Run if you can. Drive the lane or post it, suck them inside, then pass. The ball moves faster than they will. It shouldn't be too hard to get any shot you need. Just don't settle for brain-dead offense.
Since we've played them so recently there's not much more to it than that. Go, fight, win, walk out of there 2-0 on the road trip.
Don't forget to read up on the alternate perspective at the ever-excellent CanisHoopus.
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