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Trail Blazers Host Timberwolves For Final Meeting This Season

03/01/13
  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0

    BY ERIK GUNDERSEN

    On Saturday, the Trail Blazers (26-31) welcome the Minnesota Timberwolves (20-35) to the Rose Garden for their fourth and final meeting. The Trail Blazers have won the first three games of the series and they will be trying for a season sweep of the Timberwolves for the fifth time in six seasons. Tip-off is set for 7PM and the game will be shown on KGW and can be heard on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.

        •    After nearly two years, Brandon Roy will return to the Rose Garden as a player, albeit an injured and inactive one. ESPN.com's J.A. Adande reports that Roy is excited for a Rose Garden return. Roy, who averaged 5.8 points and 4.6 assists in his five games this season, underwent arthroscopic knee surgery earlier this season and has suffered multiple setbacks in trying to comeback to the court. He signed a two-year deal with the Timberwolves in the offseason. Roy will be sitting behind the Minnesota bench on Saturday night. Roy was not with the team when the Timberwolves visited Portland on November 23rd. He is not expected to play anymore games this year.
     
      •    Although Roy's return is grabbing headlines, it's the Trail Blazers' current shooting guard whom the Timberwolves will be fearing. Despite being hobbled by an ankle injury, Wesley Matthews is averaging 18.3 points, 4.3 assists and his shooting 51.5 percent from the floor and 50.0 from three on 8.7 attempts per game over his last three games. Matthews ability to play so well despite not being 100 percent has been an inspiration for the Trail Blazers, and the good news is that Matthews takes it to another level against the Timberwolves. In the three games against Minnesota this season, Matthews is averaging 26 points and 3.3 assists while shooting 62.8 percent from the field and a blistering 66.7 percent from beyond the arc on seven attempts per game.  In Minnesota's first visit, Matthews scored 30 points, going five of six from three with four steals. Matthews isn't the only Trail Blazers guard that plays well against the Timberwolves. Damian Lillard is averaging 23 points, 6.7 assists while shooting 56.3 percent from the field and 46.7 percent from the three-point line in three games against Minnesota. Defensively, the backcourt will be the focus again. However, Portland has to contend with a revitalized Ricky Rubio. Rubio had 10 assists in the fourth quarter of the previous game to lead a Minnesota comeback that was thwarted by some late game brilliance on both ends by LaMarcus Aldridge. Rubio has only continued to look better as he continues to fully recover from ACL surgery he had last year. Since the February 4th match-up between these teams, Rubio is averaging 13.5 points, 9.9 assists, nearly five rebounds and three steals per game. He's also has a slightly better True Shooting percentage (shooting percentage adjusting for free-throws and threes) of 49 % over that stretch (46.2 TS% on the year). Rubio scored 13 points and dished 13 assists in Minnesota's loss to the Lakers on Thursday. He did this in addition to making sure his teammates, who has suffered from injuries all year, were enjoying what they do. There is no doubt that despite Matthews' dominance over Minnesota, all eyes in the building will be fixated on a match-up that could soon become a classic one in the Northwest Division between Portland's dynamic rookie Damian Lillard and  Ricky Rubio.
     
      •    In the last two Trail Blazers games, they have gotten major contributions from their bench, as it appears some Trail Blazers are reserves are starting to make more of an impact on games. Eric Maynor, despite not shooting well the last few games, has looked the most comfortable at running the offense as well as pick and rolls as any Trail Blazers reserve point guard so far this year. He is able to help get people in position to make plays, in addition to that Meyers Leonard and Victor Claver have shown signs that they can be significant contributors. Against Boston, Claver had 10 rebounds and has been receiving more minutes as a "stretch-four" power forward. If Claver can develop a consistent corner-3 pointer, he will not only help himself as he is already a good defender and excellent passer, but he will also give the Trail Blazers a floor stretching forward capable of defending both forward spots. As far as Leonard, Damian Lillard said after his teammate's career-high 13 point performance against the Nuggets that he has started to see Leonard play better and be more dominant in practices. Leonard has been his best ball over his last two games, especially on the glass, where he is grabbing 22 percent of all available rebounds when he is on the floor, an elite level.  However, Stotts and Trail Blazers fans will want to see this type of play consistently, which is always the biggest challenge for young players.
     
      •    JJ Hickson is on a pretty remarkable streak. Hickson has set a Trail Blazers franchise record with 20 consecutive games shooting over 50 percent from the field. He is also still contributing on the boards over those 20 games, averaging 9.6 rebounds per contest.

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