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Trail Blazers Try to Complete Perfect Trip vs. Timberwolves

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The Blazers look to make it four in a row as they finish their road trip in Minneapolis.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Minnesota Timberwolves Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (16-13) at Minnesota Timberwolves (17-13)

Monday, December 18th - 5:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: none
Timberwolves injuries: Jimmy Butler (questionable), Nemanja Bjelica (questionable)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
How to stream: YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Canis Hoopus

The Trail Blazers aren’t winning a lot of style points lately, but they’ve won three games in a row and can move into fourth place in the West with a win against Minnesota. In their last game, the Blazers almost blew a 16-point fourth quarter lead to the Charlotte Hornets, but held on to win 93-91, thanks to defensive effort, luck, and non-existent clutch shooting from Charlotte.

The Timberwolves held 15-point lead at home on Saturday against the lowly Phoenix Suns, forcing 27 turnovers in the process, but couldn’t hold on for the win. A back injury to Jimmy Butler certainly didn’t help. He played through it, which could affect his availability against the Blazers.

What to Watch For

  • Turnovers: Minnesota is the 6th best team in the NBA in forcing turnovers, averaging 16 opponent turnovers per game. Portland is the second worst team in opponent turnovers at only 13 per game. The Timberwolves forced 27 turnovers in their last game; the Blazers had 19 turnovers in theirs. This could get ugly for the Blazers if they aren’t careful. The Timberwolves have a talent for not winning in spite of huge turnover numbers by their opponents. Twice in their last three games the Timberwolves have lost in spite of their opponents committing 26 or more.
  • Will Jimmy Butler play? Would it help if he did? Back injuries are notoriously difficult to gauge. You can get the best treatment and feel really good before the game, but all it takes is one bad step and... ouch. Butler injured himself in the second half against Phoenix, came out of the game for treatment and then right back in. His back was clearly bothering him after he returned and it impacted his game. He took the last four shots for the Wolves but only hit one of them. It’s quite possible that Butler sits out this game. If he does play, watch to see if we are getting net-positive Butler or net-negative Butler.
  • Fourth Quarter fade? Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau has a reputation for overplaying his starters, and sure enough, Timberwolves starters lead the league in minutes played. The average Minnesota starter plays 35 minutes per game, 2.8 minutes more than the next highest team and 5.3 minutes more than the mean. That doesn’t necessarily mean the Timberwolves are guaranteed to have a poor fourth quarter, but it isn’t hard to find critics who say that Thibodeau’s rotations are taking their toll on his players.

What They’re Saying

Ex-Blazer Jamal Crawford is finding it difficult to thrive with limited minutes reports Kent Youngblood of the Star Tribune:

Through 29 games the guard is averaging 17.7 minutes and 8.9 points. It is the first time in 17 seasons Crawford has not averaged in double figures in scoring. And his minutes are his lowest since his rookie season.

“It’s a difficult challenge,’’ Crawford said. “Because this is the lowest minutes I’ve played, pretty much the same minutes I played as a rookie. So you want to actually do it the right way, and play within the framework of the game. But then, if you’re not out there that much, you kind of have to make something happen. So it’s a balance I’m trying to figure out.’’

Is Andrew Wiggins getting better? Josh Clement of Canis Hoopus takes a look:

On October 11th, Andrew Wiggins signed a 5-year 148 million dollar contract extension with the Minnesota Timberwolves. This extension was based as much upon Wiggins’ potential as well as what he has done with his short NBA career. On one hand, Wiggins is such an obvious scoring talent and comes with Rookie of the Year pedigree after. Those types of players usually get max contracts.

However, as has been noted many times both here at Canis Hoopus and around the NBA, there are a lot of pieces that one can pick apart about Wiggins game. His rebounding, assist, block, and steal numbers were always low for a player who is on the court as much as Wiggins, not to mention someone who has had a sky-high usage rate.

Want to know what Karl-Anthony Towns eats each day? Scott Davis from Business Insider is here to help:

First up are two breakfasts, one before a workout or practice and one after. The first one includes five pancakes, three cups of fruit, and 24 oz. of water. Breakfast No. 2 is the same but with 1.5 cups of fruit instead of three.

"I like pancakes. I love pancakes," Towns said, confirming he eats chocolate chip pancakes because he's "a man of the people."

And we haven’t even gotten to lunch yet.