The Wolves have lost 4 straight games while the Blazers are on the outside looking in, 4.5 games behind Houston for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Tip-off is scheduled for Saturday at 10:00 pm ET at the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon and can be seen on NBA TV.
5 Dimes Sportsbook currently lists the Blazers as a hefty 9.5 point NBA odds favorite and the total for the game is 197.5.
Devastated By Injuries
It’s bad enough to be missing one of the best players in the league in Kevin Love, but the Wolves are also without Andrei Kirilenko and now Nikola Pekovic who can be missing a considerable amount of time with an abdominal strain that he suffered in the Lakers game.
I’ve been saying with the addition of potential Rookie of the Year, Damian Lillard, the Trail Blazers have one of the best starting 5 in the league. That said, they’ve won 2 out of their last 10 games and have no excuses, they’re just a major disappointment. Portland has a chance to get back on the winning track. Without Pekovic, the Timberwolves are at a major disadvantage as you saw in their double digit loss to the Lakers.
Bench Has a Stench
The Portland Trail Blazers bench has been holding them back all season. Simply put, they stink. You take their last game, a 111-109 loss to a very good Denver team at home and if you match the starters up on each team, Portland has the advantage. The difference in the game was the bench. Portland only had 2 bench players that scored.
Depth can be a killer even on a good team. The Miami Heat’s ”Big 3” had to add pieces to the puzzle because they lacked depth. Portland needs to do some shopping in the off-season to give their superb starters some relief.
Damian Lillard has been more than a team could ever ask for as a rookie. He’s coming off of a 26 point performance against Denver and has been consistent all season. A Lillard vs. Rubio matchup at point guard will be an exciting one to watch for the fans and keep the bettors on their seats. Lillard should play well here; he has a major advantage over Rubio in offensive skill. Look for the Portland starting 5 to carry this team once again, but against a depleted opponent.
The commentators were talking about him on TNT at halftime in the Timberwolves loss to the Lakers and Shaquille O’Neal pointed out that as a big man, he would love to have Ricky Rubio on his team. Rubio’s passing ability is unique and creates the open shots for the players on the wing and can set up the big man in the middle. This is a player with a high upside. He’s not going to score 30 points a game but he’s going to fill up the stat sheet where rebounds, assists, and steals are concerned.
With all of their injuries, look for Rubio to look for his offense a bit more along with Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea. Barea is a pure point and Rubio can play more than one position. You might see some of this in this game as the Wolves are short-handed.
Head to Head Trends
With all of the Timberwolves injuries, the trends are a bit irrelevant in this situation, but everyone loves trends, so let’s take a look.
Timberwolves are 6-22 ATS in the last 28 meetings
Favorite is 16-6 ATS in the last 22 meetings
Over is 9-1-1 in the last 11 meetings
Over is 4-0-1 in the last 5 meetings at Portland
Although Portland has been a major disappointment, I agree with the trends. The Timberwolves are a depleted group and the Blazers starters should feast off of this injured team. This is just the type of game that Portland needs to face and they should win in double digits. Take the Blazers for your NBA picks here.
NBA Picks: Portland -9.5 at 5 Dimes