January 24, 2018, 7:19 pm
After a narrow victory on Monday night versus the LA Clippers, the Wolves continue their road trip in Portland. They’ll look to top the Trail Blazers on the front end of their back-to-back set, with the Warriors looming tomorrow night.
This is an important game for a number of reasons. The Wolves have a chance to seal another tie-breaker over a Western Conference playoff team. So far they’ve clinched tie-breakers over the Thunder, Pelicans and Clippers. If they win in Portland they can seal yet another.
Hopefully the Wolves don’t fall back in the race but if they do, or one of these teams has a strong surge, these tie-breakers are useful in securing home court advantage.
Second with the Warriors looming on the back-end of the back-to-back, securing a win here is key and makes the task much less daunting tomorrow. The Wolves aren’t looking ahead by any means and discounting the Blazers, but winning this one takes a bit of the edge off tomorrow.
Since the teams last met on January 14 the Blazers have won three of their last four games while the Wolves have gone 2-2. The Blazers are operating at peak capacity now, fully healthy and active among their rotation players, but even so have yet to get on a real hot streak this season.
They remain a team that is seemingly stuck in the mud, talented enough to compete for a playoff spot but lacking the tools and potential to jump into the elite company. Their best players are talented but have striking flaws among them.
Lillard, recently named an All-Star, and McCollum are a dynamic combination offensively but give back plenty on the defensive end. Nurkic is a physical player in the post and has the chops to be a very good lead big-man but is seemingly his own worst enemy.
Last time out the Wolves were able to slow down Lillard and McCollum’s volume, holding them each under their season average in shot attempts, and the rest of the Blazers couldn’t muster enough offense to keep pace. Depending on the status of Jimmy Butler the Blazers will look to get their star back-court significantly more involved.
Speaking of Butler, Thibs announced in the pre game that Butler is leaning towards doubtful to play in this contest. Jamal Crawford is questionable. The knee injury is still not considered serious the Wolves are just taking things slow as precaution. He expected to return by the weekend, if not tomorrow night.
If Butler can’t play, Wiggins and Teague will be ready to go. Of course last weekend they faced another dynamic back-court duo and came out on top, though giving up 60 points in the process. Once again it will be important to keep the rest of the Blazers down in the path to a victory. If their third and fourth options are hitting shots it could be a long night.
– Karl-Anthony Towns vs. Jusuf Nurkic
– Andrew Wiggins vs. C.J. McCollum
As mentioned in the last preview Nurkic has actually been pretty terrible in the post in terms of production. The problem seems to lie in his willingness to settle for perimeter jumpers or allowing himself to get bullied out of deep post position.
In the first matchup between Towns and Nurkic, Towns allowed him to take all of his shots around the rim and Nurkic dominated. The last game Towns was much more physical, and Gibson saw some time on his as well. As a result the Wolves were able to completely neutralize him.
Look for the Wolves to once again mix up the coverage and keep Nurkic out of the paint.
In the back-court the Wiggins vs. McCollum battle has the potential to be quite intriguing. Wiggins has the length and athleticism to disturb McCollum on both ends of the floor. It certainly won’t be easy but if Wiggins can swarm C.J. and force him into tough shots, it could be a long night for him because on the other end of the floor C.J. doesn’t stand a chance.
The Wolves could post up Wiggins every time on McCollum and he’d score the majority of the time. If the Blazers bring a double-team, this lineup for the Wolves possesses three consistent deep shooters that can make them pay.
It’s possible the Blazers run Evan Turner on Wiggins, but in that case Bjelica will have a player half his size attempting to guard him and he’ll have a severe mismatch. It all depends on what Wiggins the Wolves get tonight. If they get aggressive Wigs, who they’ve seen more often of late, they’ll be in great shape.
If they get passive Wiggins, McCollum will have a chance to bust out in a major way and can let Wigs settle for mid range shots all game.
Jeff Teague – PG
Andrew Wiggins – SG
Nemanja Bjelica – SF
Taj Gibson – PF
Karl-Anthony Towns – C
Damian Lillard – PG
C.J. McCollum – SG
Evan Turner – SF
Al-Farouq Aminu – PF
Jusuf Nurkic – C
Jimmy Butler (knee) – DOUBTFUL
Jamal Crawford (toe) – ACTIVE
C.J. Wilcox (knee) – OUT
Where to Watch:
10:00 ET/9:00 CT on Fox Sports North
November 14, 2019, 2:07 amLeBron JamesSF, Los Angeles Lakers
LeBron James put together a double-double in Wednesday's 120-94 win against the Warriors, ending with 23 points, six rebounds, 12 assists, a steal and a block.
James is now averaging 11.1 assists per game and is still getting his when it comes to scoring. He is just inside the top-25 right now and will keep filling the stat sheet all season.
November 14, 2019, 1:58 amKyle KuzmaPF, Los Angeles Lakers
Kyle Kuzma started and finished Wednesday night's contest with 22 points on 7-of-12 shooting, five rebounds, two assists, and three 3-pointers.
Kuzma has put together a nice streak of games. He adds scoring and 3-pointers, but can't find a way to help teams in other categories. Kuzma will likely end up having late-round value at this pace.
November 14, 2019, 1:53 amJaVale McGeeC, Los Angeles Lakers
JaVale McGee put up a double-double on Wednesday, finishing with 18 points, 17 boards, two assists, three steals and three blocks.
McGee was the better center in this contest and played 28 minutes to Dwight Howard's (15 points, eight rebounds, three assists, one block) 20 minutes. McGee put up one of his best performances of the season, but it's hard to get too excited by one night of work. Howard seems to be the center to own for the Lakers.
November 14, 2019, 1:46 amD'Angelo RussellPG, Golden State Warriors
D'Angelo Russell ended the night with 21 points, two rebounds, eight assists, a steal and a block.
Russell is clearly the go-to option on this Golden State team. He is a top-40 guy right now and has the potential to keep that up for the rest of the year.
November 14, 2019, 1:40 amDraymond GreenPF, Golden State Warriors
Draymond Green didn't contribute much on Wednesday, ending with 10 points, only one rebound, five assists, a steal, a block and two 3-pointers.
Green contributed in each category, barely. It was nice to see him knock down a couple shots from beyond the arc, but these are hardly the numbers owners were expecting when taking Green in the early rounds. He is currently returning top-125 value and could be a great buy-low opportunity, but it's hard to trust much on the Warriors right now.
November 14, 2019, 1:35 amWillie Cauley-SteinC, Golden State Warriors
Willie Cauley-Stein scored 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting and added five rebounds, three assists and two blocks on Wednesday.
Cauley-Stein had the best game of the Golden State big men (Marquese Chriss ended scoreless with six boards, two assists and two blocks) and is having a top-100 year so far. He might be doing it quietly, but it's hard to fault you if want to pick up Cauley-Stein now.
November 14, 2019, 1:28 amEric PaschallPF, Golden State Warriors
Eric Paschall came off the bench on Wednesday and dropped 15 points with three rebounds.
Paschall still logged 32 minutes but didn't stuff the stat sheet like we have seen in the past. He put a nice move on LeBron, but he is starting to regress despite taking 15 shots in this one. If you picked him up, he is worth holding onto for a bit longer.
November 14, 2019, 1:19 amDamian LillardPG, Portland Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard had trouble finding his rhythm in Wedensday night's 114-106 loss to the Raptors, ending with nine points (2-for-12 shooting), 10 assists, two blocks and two from deep.
Lillard had a rough time finding the bottom of the net in this one, but still managed to get 10 dimes and two blocks. Lillard is a top-5 player right now and there is no reason to worry after tonight's performance.
November 14, 2019, 1:14 amCJ McCollumSG, Portland Trail Blazers
C.J. McCollum finished the night with 19 points, six rebounds, four assists, a steal, a block and hitting three shots from deep on Wednesday.
McCollum has been shaky this season and it was nice to see an uptick in 3-pointers and rebounds in this one. He will likely pick it up as the season continues, and if you're looking for a buy-low candidate, this might be a good target for you.
November 14, 2019, 1:10 amRodney HoodSG, Portland Trail Blazers
Rodney Hood (back spams) returned to action on Wednesday night and dropped 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting, two boards, an assist and five 3-pointers.
Hood looks like someone that should be owned in standard leagues as he is providing nice numbers from deep and shooting 50 percent from the field this season. He's currently inside the top-120.