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Portland Trail Blazers at Minnesota Timberwolves Preview

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Portland travels to face a new-look division rival.

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NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Portland Trail Blazers Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (10-4) at Minnesota Timberwolves (6-9)

November 16, 2018 - 5:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: SF Moe Harkless (out), SG Seth Curry (out)
Timberwolves injuries: PG Derrick Rose (questionable), PG Jerryd Bayless (out)
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 Blazers’ six-game road trip started poorly, with Portland’s defense getting mauled by the Los Angeles Lakers 126-117. The squad from the Rose City looks to get things back on track against the Timberwolves, who resolved their Jimmy Butler problems since the last time the two teams played. Butler was sent to the Philadelphia 76ers along with Justin Patton in exchange for Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless, and a 2022 second-round pick. With their reinvigorated lineup, Minnesota downed the New Orleans Pelicans 107-100.

What to watch for

  • Portland bench strength. Seth Curry injured his knee in the first half against Los Angeles and will not play against Minnesota. The Blazers will have to adjust their bench selections accordingly. The Curry-Sauce Combo provided a lethal scoring punch off of the pine, and bringing in Wade Baldwin or Anfernee Simons instead may not provide the same level of spice.
  • Containment of KAT. Karl-Anthony Towns surged back to his old ways on the offensive end once Butler was traded, scoring 25 points and adding 16 rebounds against New Orleans. The Blazers have struggled with offensively-minded bigs recently, and Towns is better than JaVale McGee and Hassan Whiteside. Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins will have their hands full.
  • Pushing the advantage. Portland surged ahead of the Lakers with tremendous accuracy from three, but failed to keep their feet on the gas. Getting out in front early, and forcing the Timberwolves into a panicked offense featuring Andrew Wiggins hero ball, is a good recipe for success.

What they’re saying

Joe Hulbert of Canis Hoopus details how the Minnesota offense needs to evolve now that Butler is gone:

Towns’ usage percentage is actually second highest on the team this year which is an improvement, but it is not really good usage. Often, the Wolves just give him a poor entry post pass far away from the paint and ask him to go to work. You have to have core plays to generate easy buckets for your best players. Minnesota has very few of these.

Reid Forgrave of CBSSports.com spoke on Minnesota regaining its positive energy now that the Butler debacle is over:

When the Timberwolves got obliterated by the Bucks at home three weeks ago -- Butler played in that game, by the way, and he was awful -- it was one of the most down-and-out environments I’ve ever experienced during a sporting event. But from pregame warmups to final buzzer on Wednesday night, it felt like the Wolves remembered to enjoy basketball again.

Patrick Reusse of the Minnesota Star-Tribune complimented the defense of Robert Covington, and what he brings to the Timberwolves:

Covington’s official playing time was 41 minutes, 10 seconds, which was 23 seconds more than New Orleans’ superstar Anthony Davis. And during those long minutes in a freewheeling first half and grinding, sloppy second half, the Wolves learned as teammates rather than opponents that Covington’s status as an all-NBA defender comes with 100 percent legitimacy.