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Trail Blazers vs. Timberwolves Preview

The Blazers just lost by 62 points. Can they do better this time?

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NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Minnesota Timberwolves Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers are coming off a game where if they scored at the same rate for three more quarters and their opponent didn’t score another point, they still would have lost.

It’s hard to find words, phrases, or cliches that are useful for easing the transition from whatever we witnessed last night into a cogent aperitif for tonight’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The fact is that the Blazers have been blown out in four of their last five games. Are they a bit short-handed? Sure, but so are many NBA teams in January. Are they young and rebuilding? Yes, but being down by more than SIXTY FREAKING POINTS in the THIRD QUARTER is a bit unusual nonetheless.

Being the final game of what has become a very long road trip, it wouldn’t be a shock for the Blazers to come out a bit flat. The worry is that, if they do, they may just lose by 70. All I can say is: buckle up, hope for the best, and trust that the light at the end of this tunnel that we are all beginning to enter will be worth the dark, damp, unpleasant journey.

Portland Trail Blazers (10-25) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (26-11) - Fri. Jan. 12 - 5:00pm Pacific

How to watch on TV: Root Sports, NBA League Pass

Trail Blazers injuries: Jabari Walker (questionable); Deandre Ayton (doubtful); Robert Williams III, Moses Brown (out)

Wolves injuries: Anthony Edwards, Jordan McLaughlin, Jaden McDaniels (questionable); Jaylen Clark (out).

Wolves SBN affiliate: Canis Hoopus

About the Opponent

John Krawczynksi of The Athletic (subscription required) comes in with a fun and interesting retrospective of the career of the recently-retired Ricky Rubio, drafted by the Timberwolves in 2009:

Rubio threw real no-look passes, not those fake ones that so many players would fool you with by throwing the ball and then turning their heads after the pass was already halfway to the target. Rubio would come up the court, and the entire arena would hold its collective breath as he drove down the left side, walked the baseline like a tightrope 30 feet in the air under a circus tent and squeezed a pass through three defenders to a cutting teammate for an easy layup.

Jace Frederick of The Pioneer Press writes (among other things) about the importance of Mike Conley to a Wolves team that just lost in overtime to the Boston Celtics:

But the collapse was another reminder of how much Minnesota struggles in crunch time when Conley isn’t around to guide the ship. Minnesota averages 1.2 points per possession in clutch time — when the game is in the final five minutes of overtime or regulation and within a margin of five points — when Conley is on the floor. When he’s not, it’s usually chaos, as it was before he arrived in Minnesota via trade a year ago. Edwards almost exclusively had the ball in his hands down the stretch Wednesday and responded by going 1 for 7 from the floor with three turnovers in the fourth quarter and overtime. Possession after possession, Edwards would dribble the air out of the ball for 15 seconds, then Boston would come over to trap and Minnesota would have no time to do anything with the ball from there.

Chris Hine of the Star Tribune also recaps the Wolves’ most recent loss, and highlights the maturating of Minnesota from perennial also-ran to a threat to contend for a Conference Finals spot:

“All of our guys in here, we don’t like losing,” Anderson said. “But I think we definitely got better [Wednesday]. We’ve seen we got to have discipline to beat the disciplined teams. Big-time playmaking on both ends isn’t just going to win the game for us, especially against good teams like this. So, I think we’re all going to learn from it.” That summed up the emotions inside the Wolves locker room. There was disappointment in the result but pride in how they competed despite their circumstances.