Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Portland Trail Blazers, 2/4/13

Rubio-BatumSetting the stage:

The Timberwolves continue their homestand Monday night against division rival Portland.  Minnesota is fresh off of their blowout victory against New Orleans on Saturday night and look to continue to roll through this stretch of home games.  The win moved the Wolves to 18-26 on the season but are still well behind in the race for the playoffs.

Portland also comes into Monday’s game off of a win on Saturday night, defeating the Jazz at home.  The Blazers actually had one of the rare back-to-back home and away games against the same team, losing to the Jazz on Friday night in Utah.  Portland is 24-23 on the season and one game behind Houston for the 8th seed in the conference

The Blazers have defeated the Wolves in both of the earlier match-ups this season, winning 103-95 in Portland on 11/23 and then again in Minnesota on 1/5 by a 102-97 score.  Rookie Damian Lillard has lit up the Wolves in both games averaging 24 points and 7 assists in the two games.  With Rubio looking more like his former self in the past week or two, it will be interesting to see if he and the rest of the Wolves backcourt can do a better job of containing Lillard.

Player to watch:

Nic Batum – The almost Timberpup is putting together a very nice season, averaging 15.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists a game.  He’s become much more of a focal point in the Blazers’ offense and is successfully proving his doubters wrong.  While he didn’t score much in the first meeting against the Wolves this season (9 points), he did fill the box score and contributed in other aspects of the game.  In January’s meeting in Minnesota, Batum erupted for 26 points, putting his talents on display for the Minnesota faithful.  The match-up between he and Kirilenko will be a joy to watch.

Match-up to watch:

Ricky Rubio vs. Damian Lillard.  Ricky is the highlighted man in this preview again, as he has another tough test in front of him on Monday.  As previously mentioned, Lillard has had a lot of success in the two meetings with the Wolves this season.  Now that Ricky is seemingly getting back to normal, it will be interesting to see how he can contain the rookie.  Rubio is coming off a highlight reel filled performance on Saturday night, with 9 points and 7 assists in only 22 minutes of action – due to the scoreboard and not his leg injury.  In fact, over the weekend Adelman mentioned that he is no longer limiting Rubio’s minutes and that he will be playing 32 mpg or so, which is what he would normally be slotted for according to the coach.

Predictions:

This is a tough match-up for the Wolves but I’m going to say that the momentum from Saturday’s game against New Orleans carries over for one more evening.

Final score prediction: Twolves 102, Blazers 100

Three stars of the game predictions:

  1. Nikola Pekovic
  2. Alexey Shved
  3. LaMarcus Aldridge

Let’s go Wolves!