The big news in the NBA from Thursday night is that Portland wing Wesley Matthews is out for the remainder of the season with an injury. How much will that affect the Trail Blazers tonight?
The Portland Trail Blazers Can Win Because…
Their other players are still really good and are playing well, too and currently they're listed on the NBA odds as -4 favorites. LaMarcus Aldridge, the same man who was supposed to have been out for several weeks at one point earlier in the season, shrugged off the need for medical attention and decided to play his way through the pain. He’s done more than okay, enabling the Blazers to stay in the top five of the Western Conference. In his last four games, Aldridge has scored 29, 26, 29 and 17 points, not something you’d expect from a player who is physically well below 100 percent. Aldridge averages 23.3 points and 10.5 rebounds per game, more than enough production not just under the circumstances, but for any team at any position. He’s been unbelievable in the face of his physical limitations.
Damian Lillard averages 21.2 points per game and almost six assists as well, but he opened some eyes around the league when, on Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Clippers, he grabbed 18 rebounds. A player at 6-3 grabbing 18 rebounds is incredibly rare and extremely impressive. It’s no wonder that Portland comes into this game having won five in a row – its stars are playing like stars, and as long as Aldridge and Lillard can continue to play like this, Portland should be able to beat a bad team such as Minnesota, which has lost four in a row and has clearly not gained the benefits many people thought it would when Kevin Garnett came aboard. Minnesota scored a blowout win over Washington a few weeks ago in Garnett’s first home game following his return to the T-Wolves. That result was obviously more a reflection on how far the Wizards had fallen, not how much the Timberwolves had improved. They have not improved much at all, and are not building any forward momentum right now.
The Minnesota Timberwolves Can Win Because…
They're aware that Portland doesn’t have Wesley Matthews. The Trail Blazers are a hot team, but they’re going to look a lot different, and certainly not better, with Matthews out. Matthews averages 15.9 points per game, and a few games ago, he scored 31 against the San Antonio Spurs. The thing to realize about Matthews is that his presence on the floor provides spacing for Aldridge and Lillard, enabling them to operate a lot more effectively. With Matthews missing, you’re going to see Minnesota and other teams being a lot more aggressive in double-teaming Aldridge in the post while hedging on Lillard at the top of the key. This will have a domino effect on the Blazers’ offense, an effect which will not be pretty.
The Blazers are clearly not going to beat elite teams without Matthews, but Minnesota is a team they can handle. Portland has enough production to get through this game and win it. Take them with your NBA picks.
NBA Pick: Portland -4 at 5Dimes