Brandon Roy OUT for Friday
Portland Trail Blazers’ fans have had this game circled on their calendars since the NBA released their schedule this past offseason, but with Brandon Roy no longer available, it appears to be just another game between two struggling division rivals.
Matchup: Portland (5-6) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (5-5)
Venue: Rose Garden Arena
Time: 10:00 PM ET
Date: Friday, November 23, 2012
The Wolves may be without Roy, but they are fortunate enough to finally have NBA superstar—and Lake Oswego (ORE.) native, Kevin Love back in the lineup.
Game Notes/How They Match Up
This game is going to be a classic matchup of offense versus defense. The Blazers average 99.2 points per game, while allowing 102.9, and the Wolves score just 92 points per game, while allowing only 91.5.
The other major storyline here is going to be the numerous connections that the Timberwolves have to the state of Oregon. Aside from Roy and Love, Minnesota also has point guard Luke Ridnour from the University of Oregon, former Trail Blazer Dante Cunningham and a coaching staff that includes Rick Adelman, Terry Porter and Bill Bayno.
Most notably, these two teams are connected because of the hefty contract Minnesota offered Nicolas Batum in an attempt to sign him their in free agency.
The summer was ugly at times, as Nicolas Batum’s interest in the Blazers was questioned, and the two teams struggled to come up with sign-and-trade. When it was all said and done, though, Portland kept their man, and he’s become a candidate for the Most Improved Player award early in the new season.
What to Watch: Portland
Minnesota has been one of the best defensive squads this year, as they allowing the fourth-fewest points per game in the entire NBA. If the Blazers are going to score against this squad, they must move the ball well and score in transition.
The Blazers are 29th in the league in assists. They had an abysmal 14 assists in their blowout loss against the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday, and they need to get better and creating easy buckets.
One way to find easy opportunities is to get out and run. Pushing the tempo will challenge Minnesota, and it will give Portland the chance to score without the Timbwolves’ defense getting into place.
The key, however, is to remain smart. If Portland pushes the ball up the floor and there are no open shots, the team needs to pass it out and run their offense. Forcing attempts will get a young team nowhere, and finding the open shooters will help against a good defensive unit.
What to Watch: Minnesota
Kevin Love missed the team’s first nine games of the 2012-13 season, but he finally made his triumphant return Wednesday against the Denver Nuggets. He made his impact felt right away, and while the team lost 101-94, the big man managed to record 34 points and 14 rebounds in his debut.
If Love is back on the floor, there’s no doubting whether or not he’s ready to play. What you can doubt, however, is what kind of shape he’ll be in.
Love has never been known for his conditioning. That area of his game has certainly improved over the years, but he’s not what you think of when someone mentions freakish athletic abilities.
It’s going to be important to watch how he is able to play in his second game back, and Portland could put him to the test if the run a fast enough offense.
Love went up against an energy-maker in Kenneth Faried on Wednesday, but now he has to face off against a fellow All-Star in LaMarcus Aldridge.
These two players are both big men who can spread the floor. Love’s range extends beyond the three-point line, and while LaMarcus Aldridge can’t quite reach that far, he is more deadly in the mid-range game.
Where Love has the true advantage is on the glass. Rebounding has never been an area where Aldridge dominates, while the Wolves’ forward has been near, or on top of the league the past few seasons.
This is a battle between two players who can each make a case for best power forward in the game, and their abilities will be on full display when they meet on Friday.
Portland: DAY-TO-DAY—J.J. Hickson
Minnesota: OUT—Brandon Roy
Neither of these teams have made a name for themselves early in the year, but Portland should win this one at home if they take advantage of easy scoring opportunities.