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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Minnesota Timberwolves Preview

Back home to take on the not-so-bad Timberwolves.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Portland Trail Blazers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (20-26) vs Minnesota Timberwolves (23-23)

The Portland Trail Blazers are back home from a successful six-game road trip. Who would have thought the Blazers could go 4-2 on the road without Damian Lillard? Just five weeks ago, the Blazers were sitting on one win on the road for the entire season. Now back at Moda for a brief two game stand, the Blazers have an opportunity to win their third game in a row and their third in a row at home.

The Minnesota Timberwolves aren’t yet the finished article, but they are pretty good and getting better. Winners of seven out of their last ten games, the Timberwolves can beat any team on their day. Just ask the Golden State Warriors and Brooklyn Nets. The Wolves took care of the Warriors pretty handily a week ago Sunday by the score of 119-99, and they defeated the Nets this last Sunday by a score of 136-125. In the previous meeting between Minnesota and Portland, the Timberwolves won the day, defeating the Blazers by a score of 116-111.

Tuesday, January 25- 7:00 p.m. PT
How to watch on TV: Root Sports NW, NBA League Pass
Blazers injuries: Damian Lillard (out), Larry Nance Jr. (out), Cody Zeller (out), Robert Covington (probable), Dennis Smith Jr. (probable) and Nassir Little (probable)
Timberwolves injuries: Patrick Beverley (questionable), Anthony Edwards (questionable)
SBN Affiliate: Canis Hoopus

What To Watch For

  • A big first quarter from the Timberwolves. Minnesota loves to get off to a fast start. Over the last ten games they have exceed 40 points twice and 36 points an additional three times in the first quarter. In fact, the Timberwolves are tied for first in first quarter scoring in the NBA. In contrast, the Blazers have exceed 36 points just once in the first quarter in their last 10 games. The Timberwolves will try to make the Blazers a distant speck in the rear view mirror quickly. It’s imperative that Portland doesn’t allow that to happen.
  • Lots of threes. The Timberwolves take more shots from deep than any other team in the NBA. The Blazers are seventh in that department. The good news is that Minnesota is 20th at actually making them, while Portland is eighth.
  • Rebounds might decide this one. With the Timberwolves taking a lot of shots beyond the arc and missing a good number of them, it becomes crucial to pull down the rebound. That could be a problem. Minnesota pulls down 30% of their offensive rebound opportunities, third best in the NBA. The Blazers are respectable on the defensive boards, but they’ll need a better than typical performance cleaning the glass to make the Timberwolves pay for their misses.

What Others Are Saying

Jarred Venderbilt has come a very long way since reinjuring is foot in devastating fashion freshman year in college according to Chris Hine of the Star Tribune.

Years later, Jarred Vanderbilt has been a revelation for the Timberwolves. After forcing his way into a regular role last season, his game has grown to the point the 6-8 forward is now a staple of an NBA starting lineup, something that seemed improbable that day in Kentucky.

gabeschneider0 of Canis Hoopus looks at D’Angelo Russell and how his play impacts the Timberwolves as a whole.

There have been games where he’s played great, hitting from deep, picking apart pick-and-roll coverages with no-look assists or midrange jumpers, sinking clutch shots in overtime against the Philadelphia 76ers, etc. But then there have been games where he just can’t get it going, finishing with stat lines like 1-11 or 1-12 from three. All players have cold streaks and off nights, but it feels so much more detrimental to this team when it’s Russell who’s off. Not just in terms of shooting, but distributing.

Jace Frederick of the Pioneer Press says that the Timberwolves are kings of the first quarter. (submitting email address required to read)

Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said early in the season the team identified the value of getting off to strong starts in games. It’s been a focus ever since.

That’s why it made sense for Minnesota to put all of its eggs into the starting basket. That included pairing Patrick Beverley and D’Angelo Russell — the team’s two primary point guards — in the starting lineup to open contests. At times, finding a third point guard to fill the minutes where both guards are then off the floor has proven challenging, but the Wolves deemed that a problem worth having given the upside of the starters.