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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Minnesota Timberwolves Preview

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Portland gets its first shot at divisional play against a fractured Minnesota squad.

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NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Portland Trail Blazers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (6-3) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (4-5)

November 4, 2018 - 6:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Moe Harkless (out), Jusuf Nurkic (probable)
Timberwolves injuries: Justin Patton (out), Derrick Rose (probable), Jimmy Butler (game-time decision), Jeff Teague (probable)
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

Update: Jusuf Nurkic (left wrist sprain) is probable, while Moe Harkless (left knee) is out tonight, per the Blazers.

The battle for the Northwest Division begins in earnest for the Trail Blazers as Portland hosts the Timberwolves for the first time this season. Damian Lillard is receiving national attention for his red-hot start, and the Blazers find themselves in the odd (but positive) situation of having a solid bench, led by Zach Collins and Nik Stauskas. However, the bench was overmatched by the Los Angeles Lakers’ reserves in Portland’s loss Saturday night 114-110.

For Minnesota, the public battle between star Jimmy Butler and the rest of the squad has poured over into the regular season, with Minnesota struggling to get their chemistry on track. While Butler played in their last game against the Golden State Warriors, the team dropped to 0-4 on the road with a 116-99 loss.

What to watch for

  • What is the Minnesota guard situation? Derrick Rose put on a show with 50 points on Halloween, but is now dealing with an ankle injury. Jeff Teague is also slowed by an injury, and Butler is deciding for himself when he will play. All signs point to a backcourt advantage for Portland.
  • The battle for the paint. Karl-Anthony Towns has been shooting remarkably well from three-point range this season, which may force Jusuf Nurkic out of his comfort zone and near the perimeter. If the Blazers decide to guard him with Al-Farouq Aminu, they risk Towns taking advantage of the size difference.
  • Keeping Andrew Wiggins off balance. Wiggins has had a slow start for the Timberwolves, with his 13.95 PER ranking him 26th among all NBA small forwards. Minnesota actually played Portland better when Wiggins struggled last season, with Wiggins averaging 13 points in the two games Minnesota won, and 25.5 points in the two Portland won. With that said, the Blazers would prefer to simply eliminate Wiggins as a factor offensively.

What they’re saying

Nick Friedell of ESPN.com noted that the Jimmy Butler situation has not improved, with Butler actively making decisions for himself over the team:

“I’m not worried about no deal,” Butler said. “Injury or not, I got to take care of myself. I realize they have a job to do as an organization; I have one to do as a player.”

Jakeapaynting of Canis Hoopus lauded the performance of journeyman forward Anthony Tolliver, and his defensive stability:

According to Synergy Sports Tech, Tolliver’s opponents failed to shoot over 40 percent from the field in spot up, pick-and-roll, isolation and post-up situations last season, which accounted for 84.8 percent of his overall defensive plays.

Kedar Hiremath of Dunking With Wolves writes that Butler’s selfishness needs to be addressed:

In case you’re wondering, simply sitting out games when not actually being injured (or, in the case of Wednesday’s game, not even on a back-to-back) is not fair to the fans and players. Enough of the drama, it’s time for Butler to go.