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Portland Trail Blazers at Minnesota Timberwolves Preview

Portland will try to end their road trip 2-2 with a win against a hot Minnesota team.

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NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Minnesota Timberwolves Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (22-20) at Minnesota Timberwolves (28-16)

Sunday, January 14th - 6:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Evan Turner (questionable - illness)
Timberwolves injuries: None
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, ESPN (No NBA League Pass)
How to stream: YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV. (No League Pass)
Radio: 620 AM, ESPN Radio
SBN Affiliate: Canis Hoopus

The Blazers end their four-game road trip with a visit to the Target Center in Minneapolis. On Friday Portland lost to the New Orleans Pelicans 113-119. A win against a surging Timberwolves team would give the Blazers reason to feel pretty good about a 2-2 Western Conference road trip. A loss would once again force the team to look for answers and consistency that has been so elusive this year.

The Timberwolves are looking to finish up a perfect home stand with a victory over the Blazers. They’ve won all four previous games on the current home stand, seven in a row overall at home, and are 11-3 over their last 14 games home and away. The previous meeting between these two teams, also in Minneapolis, ended in a 108-107 loss for the Blazers after Portland gave away a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter.

What to watch for

  • Jimmy Butler. Over the last four games Butler is averaging 50.9 percent from the field, 61.5 percent from three and over 20 points per game. The last time these two teams met, Butler shot 57.1 percent from the field, 66.7 percent from three and scored 37 points. The Blazers simply need to figure out a way to slow Butler down if they don’t want to end their road trip with three losses in row.
  • Turnovers and steals. The Timberwolves are the second-best team in the NBA at avoiding turnovers and the third best at steals. The Blazers are middle-of-the-pack at giving up turnovers, averaging 14.5 per game. Portland absolutely needs to take care of the ball and keep the turnover statistics close to give themselves a chance.
  • Points. Lots of points. Minnesota averages 108.5 points per game and that average is trending up. The Blazers have scored 110 points or more in seven games in a row. The bad news is the Timberwolves have regularly held opponents to under 100 points in recent weeks—the Blazers not so much. There aren’t too many teams that can completely shut down Minnesota’s offense, but the Blazers will need to hold the Timberwolves to their scoring average or below if they want to have a legitimate shot at winning.

What they’re saying

Kent Youngblood of the Minneapolis Star and Tribune writes about how the Timberwolves got on their current roll, beginning with their home victory in December against, who else, Portland:

Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau, immersed in the process, didn’t want to talk about a watershed moment. Jimmy Butler, when asked if the Wolves’ season had taken an important turn almost a month ago, chose idiom over endorsement.

“If ‘if’ was a fifth, we’d all be drunk, that’s for sure,” Butler said. “I can’t tell you. I don’t know.”

But something happened.

Karl-Anthony Towns and consistency is the topic for Nick Kelly of the St. Paul Pioneer Press:

His 21-point and 16-rebound outing (against New Orleans) extended his league-lead in double-doubles to 33. It came after a performance in Boston where he scored 25 points and grabbed 23 rebounds, a career high.

He had a double-double in each of five games they played this week.

That consistency is something Thibodeau said he has not yet seen from Towns.

“I think he is starting to develop an understanding now of how important it is to prepare for each opponent, and I think that comes with experience,” Thibodeau said. “He loves winning, so he is doing a lot of great things out there for us.”

Josh Clement of Canis Hoopus takes a closer look at Timberwolves superstar Jimmy Butler:

In the fourth quarter, the Wolves offense usually devolves into Jimmy-time. It may not be the prettiest thing in the world, but it has worked more than not. I was lucky enough to be at the Target Center during the spectacular Nuggets game, when he essentially scored all of the Wolves points during the fourth quarter and overtime.

For the first time in over a decade, cries of MVP rang out, loud and clear, in the Target Center.

But what does Jimmy want? He is, after all, just a kid from Tomball, Texas.