trailblazers

Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Portland Trail Blazers prediction and preview

Blazers need momentum, now

The Portland Trail Blazers are coming off another close loss, as they let the Denver Nuggets walk away victorious Wednesday night. It was a sour note to end a tough month on, but a matchup against the Minnesota Timberwolves has the potential to help PDX turn things around.

Matchup: Portland (26-31) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (20-35)
Venue: Rose Garden Arena
Time: 7:00 PM ET
Date: Saturday, March 2, 2013

Portland has a tendency to play both up and down to its competition, but if it can execute from start to finish, it should make relatively easy work of the Wolves on Saturday.

Game Notes/How They Match Up

Nikola Pekovic is a big, big man. (Photo: Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY Sports)

Nikola Pekovic is a big, big man. (Photo: Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY Sports)

It’s been assumed for a while now that the Timberwolves are out of the playoffs. Injuries have hit them hard, and they haven’t been able to recover without Kevin Love in the lineup.

Portland, on the other hand, has been fighting for the No. 8 seed all season long, but it’s looking less and less likely with each loss it incurs.

The Blazers are currently in the 10th spot out West while the Wolves are stuck in 12th. Both teams have struggled as of late, but both teams also have good young talent that they’re building around for the future.

Portland is the more likely of the two to make the playoffs, but it’s going to take a solid run in the final two months to make it happen.

What to Watch: Portland

The month of March is going to be an important one for the Trail Blazers. They’re coming into the month having lost seven of their last eight games, and they’re going to need momentum going into a brutal April to close out the year.

The best way to start off March is with a win, and the best way to get that win is with efficient shooting.

The last time Portland played Minnesota, it completed 58 percent of its field-goal attempts, and made nearly 40 percent of it’s long-range shots. The Timberwolves haven’t been a good offensive team this season, so if you can get into the high 90’s, you have a good chance of beating them any night of the week.

The last time the Blazers played Minnesota, they got a quiet four points in 35 minutes out of Nicolas Batum. The rest of the starters picked up the slack, but it’s become painfully clear that Portland is at its best when Nicolas Batum comes out aggressive and looking for his own shot.

What to Watch: Minnesota

With Minnesota’s starting lineup so banged up, the team has gotten decent performances out of its reserves during the 2012-13 season. One of those performances came against Portland on Feb. 4 when five bench players combined for an impressive 57 points.

For those keeping score, that’s 16 more points than their starters put on the board, and that’s 37 more points than Portland’s second unit managed to score in that contest.

One of the more surprising showings came from former Trail Blazers forward Dante Cunningham. He scored 23 points on 11-of-17 shooting, and he managed to collect three steals in just 29 minutes.

J.J. Hickson photo credit Bruce Ely Oregonian

J.J. Hickson will be faced with a physical challenge in Nikola Pekovic. Photo : Bruce Ely/The Oregonian

The Blazers’ reserves have struggled all season long, and they’ll have to step up their game if they want to keep up with Minnesota Saturday night.

Key Matchup

With Kevin Love out of the lineup for Minnesota, the attention shifts from the power forward position to the center spot.

Nikola Pekovic is having a monster of a season, yet most casual fans still don’t know his name. He’s a lot like J.J. Hickson in the sense that he can go off for double-doubles while contributing on offense. He’s averaging an impressive 16 points and nine rebounds per game, and he has the physical prowess to dominate those on the block who are smaller than he is.

Fortunately for J.J. Hickson, he has much more energy and quickness despite being well undersized.

The Blazers’ center is going to give Pekovic trouble on Saturday. Hickson can spread the floor with his jump shot, and he has also proven that his craftiness is often more important than his size on the offensive glass.

These two players will battle all game long, and while Pekovic won the battle last time in Minnesota, Hickson will have the home crowd on his side this time around.

Injury Report

Portland: N/A

Minnesota: OUT—Brandon Roy, Kevin Love, DAY-TO-DAY—Andrei Kirilenko, Nikola Pekovic

Prediction

The Wolves have struggled to stay relevant with their injuries this season, and they’ll have a tough time hanging with the Blazers at the Rose Garden on Saturday.

Blazers 100 – Minnesota 93

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About Bryant Knox

NWSB Editor. Portland native and Oregon graduate, On a non-stop mission to consume as much Ducks+Trail Blazers content as humanly possible. His love of sports is what attracts him to the game, passion for writing drives him to uncover the stories. Connect w/ Bryant today!
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