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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Minnesota Timberwolves Preview

The Blazers hit the road following a loss at home.

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

Portland Trail Blazers (21-15) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (8-29)

The Portland Trail Blazers are coming off of a disappointing loss to the Phoenix Suns following the All-Star break, and are aiming to get back to winning against the Timberwolves in the first of two back-to-backs in Minneapolis. The Timberwolves are looking to win their second straight after losing nine games in a row heading into the All-Star break.

Saturday, March 13 - 5:00 p.m. PT How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBA League Pass or see games all season on fuboTV Blazers injuries: Zach Collins (out), CJ McCollum (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out), Harry Giles (out) Timberwolves injuries: Jarrett Culver (doubtful), Jordan McLaughlin (out), D’Angelo Russell (out) SBN Affiliate: Canis Hoopus

What To Watch For

  • Defensive Center Rotation. The Timberwolves roster is headlined by Karl-Anthony Towns, one of the NBA’s premier big men, and the biggest question for the Blazers going in to this matchup will be how to guard him. Towns might prove to be to big for a depleted big man rotation for the injured Blazers. Enes Kanter and Robert Covington will most likely be the primary defenders on Towns, but both have their limitations when it comes to guarding a player like Towns. Kanter is not known for his defense or mobility on the perimeter, where Towns likes to spend a lot of time, and Covington is only 6’7”, four inches shorter than Towns. How well the Blazers are able to defend Towns will have a significant impact on the outcome of the game.
  • Three-Point Shooting. The Blazers make the second most threes per game at 16.2, and the Timberwolves sit in the middle of the pack at 12.8 threes made per game. However, it is the percentage each team shoots the three ball at that sets them even further apart. The Blazers are 8th in the league in three point percentage, whereas the Timberwolves are 26th. In their most recent game against the Pelicans, the Timberwolves shot 48% from three as a team. The Timberwolves have a group of players on their roster than can get hot from three on any given night, and it has to be a priority of the Blazers to not allow those players to get enough open looks to swing the game in their favor.
  • Damian Lillard. The Blazers boast the best player in this matchup in Damian Lillard, and his play will be incredibly important for the Blazers’ efforts. Lillard has scored 20+ in his last 16 games, including ten 30+ point performances during that stretch. The Timberwolves do not have enough perimeter defense to hope to stop Lillard, so a big scoring night from him is not out of the question. Just how well Lillard plays will be a very important factor for the depleted Blazers.

What Others Are Saying

Derek James of Canis Hoopus talked about Chris Finch, the Timberwolves’ new coach, shortening the rotation in their win against the Pelicans Thursday night.

Some credit should also go to Chris Finch here. The new coach held true to his word and shortened his rotation. Ten players entered the game but only eight played more than 20 minutes. Juancho Hernangomez wouldn’t have seen playing time if this wasn’t a blowout. Williamson and Adams were unfazed by Vanderbilt and played sparingly after the first quarter.

Not only did Finch shorten his rotation, but he trusted the players who built the lead to close the game (what a revelation that was!). Prior to Thursday night, Anthony Edwards, Nowell, and McDaniels have had very few chances to finish victories. And yet, this game provided the young players valuable experience playing with a lead and learning to never take your foot off the gas.

Jace Frederick of Twin Cities talks about Anthony Edwards’ struggles with efficiency this season, and the promise he showed in his last game.

While no one questions Edwards’ offensive abilities, the fact is his shooting outside of the restricted area has been lackluster. In his past 15 games, Edwards is shooting 28 percent from 3-point range, 29 percent from the mid-range and 17 percent on paint shots outside of the restricted area. But Edwards is making 60 percent of his shots at the rim in that same time frame. And no one can stop him from getting to the rim, so the solution seems simple: get to the rack.

Perhaps the message is starting to sink in. Eleven of Edwards’ 22 shots Thursday came in the paint. And while that’s only slightly better than his season average in that area, it’s progress.

Jim McCormick of ESPN mentions two Timberwolves players that have recently been playing very well, especially in the win against the Pelicans.

Averaging 14 PPG to go with solid shooting, passing and rebounding rates in 24.5 MPG during the past four games for the Timberwolves, Nowell has enjoyed a sizable uptick in usage since Malik Beasley was suspended.

McDaniels joined his fellow Husky in setting a new career scoring peak with 20 points while missing just one of his nine shots. The efficient performance included 4 3-pointers, 2 steals and 3 blocks. For the season, McDaniels is averaging more than a block per game in just 19.3 MPG, thanks to a stellar 4.5% block percentage.