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Trail Blazers Begin Six-Game Trip In Minnesota

02/04/13
  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0

    Tonight in Minnesota the Trail Blazers (24-23) kick off a long six-game road trip against the Timberwolves (18-26). Tip-off at the Target Center will be at 5PM and the game will be shown on CSNNW and can be heard on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.

        •    As the road trip begins and continues, there is no story that Trail Blazers fans will be paying attention to more than the health and status of Wesley Matthews. Matthews sprained his right ankle in Portland's loss at Utah on Friday night and sat out the following game between the two teams the next night in Portland. Matthews has made big defensive plays, hit big shots and is also the emotional leader for this Trail Blazers team. Without Matthews, the Trail Blazers have been able to manage as they have gone 5-2 in games without him this year. They got help from Will Barton, Nolan Smith and Luke Babbitt offensively to try and help replace some of what Matthews gives the Trail Blazers on a nightly basis. Along with the Matthews injury, Ronnie Price's on-going issues with his right ankle leave his status during this trip very much uncertain. The status for both Matthews and Price is uncertain for Monday but they will certainly need them as this trip continues. LaMarcus Aldridge said after Portland's win on Saturday that this trip will "make or break" the Trail Blazers season as they left Portland one game above five-hundred and still very much in the thick of things in the playoff race. Of the teams they play on the trip, Minnesota, Dallas and Houston are all ones they will be competing with for the final two playoff spots in the West.  
      
     •    The previous match-up between these two happened on the Trail Blazers' four game road trip to start January. Portland ran up and down the Target Center court, launching three after three with Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews leading the way with 26 points each and five threes apiece. Obviously not having Matthews will make repeating that story impossible and Batum's right wrist has been giving him problems as he has not shot nearly as much since re-injuring the hand against Dallas last Tuesday. The Wolves are a solid defensive team and rebounding team, especially on the interior led by Nikola Pekovic and his 15.9 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. Despite not having Kevin Love for much of the year, the Timberwolves are still the third best offensive rebounding team in the league. Portland ran out to a huge lead that dwindled in the final moments and only until LaMarcus Aldridge hit two big turnaround jumpers did they manage to put the Wolves away. The Wolves are a feisty bunch, even if they are decimated by injuries to key players (Love, Chase Budinger, Brandon Roy).
      
     •    The match-up between the back courts will likely decide this one. In both previous match-ups, it was Portland's backcourt that did the damage offensively, with Matthews featured prominently in both wins, averaging 28 points. Tonight, the pressure will be on Damian Lillard to carry more of the load without Matthews, as well as Batum. Lillard is averaging 24 points against the Timberwolves this year and will have to bring another solid performance if the Trail Blazers are to get off to a good start. Portland's interior players are also important but the Timberwolves do have a wealth of good backcourt players despite all their injuries in JJ Barea, Alexey Shved, Ricky Rubio and Luke Ridnour. Also, this will be the first game that Ricky Rubio and Damian Lillard will play each other. Even though Rubio is going through a tough season as he tries to recover from a torn ACL, folks around the basketball world will certainly have their eyes on that match-up when it comes.



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