The magic number: Four. All the Portland Trail Blazers (38-38) need to do is win four of their final six games and they will clinch the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Portland heads into tonight’s matchup with the Timberwolves (30-45) with a two game lead on the ninth place Denver Nuggets (36-40). Portland won the season series against the Nuggets, meaning Denver needs to finish a full game ahead of the Blazers in order to secure a playoff spot. At this point, the eight seed feels like a near lock for the Blazers.
Portland has come out victorious in its past six games, including a lopsided 130-117 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Saturday. The Blazers controlled the game from the jump, at one point leading the Suns 50-25. Phoenix clawed back and made it a single digit game, but the Blazers quickly answered and stretched it back out to double digits. The final score was a lot closer than the game ever was.
It was a very impressive win for the Blazers. Portland had six players in double figures, led by Damian Lillard with 31. Noah Vonleh chipped in a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds, while Evan Turner scored 18 off of the bench. It was a big test for the Blazers, playing their first game without star center Jusuf Nurkić, and needless to say they passed their first hurdle.
The next test comes in the form of the Karl-Anthony Town led Timberwolves. Minnesota is just 3-7 in its last 10 games, and is coming off of a 117-123 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Saturday. Despite the losing record, this test will be a little harder for Portland. With no Nurkić and a hobbled Meyers Leonard the Blazers may have a hard time guarding Towns. In the two previous games these two have played, both wins for the Blazers, Towns has averaged 13.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 3.0 assists. However, both of those contests came against a Blazers team that was largely healthy. It will be interesting to see how the Blazers choose to defend the Timberwolves attack without their true starting center.
On the bright side the Blazers are 2-0 on the season against Minnesota, last matching up just over a week ago – A 112-110 win for the Blazers. Can the Blazers make it 3-0?
Let’s just hope there isn’t condensation on the court in Minnesota this time around.
We will help set the stage for Saturday’s game with an all-new Rip City Live starting at 3:00pm only on CSN.
And if you can’t get to a TV, you can check out The Scoop Pregame Show streaming live on your mobile phone, tablet, or computer at 6:00pm at Facebook.com/CSNNW.
Video: Stotts: Life without Nurkić
Where: Target Center, Minneapolis MN
Television: CSN, 4:00pm
CSN Programming: Rip City Live (3:00pm), Talkin' Ball (Immediately after the Blazers postgame show)
Live streaming: Watch an authenticated stream of the game at CSNNW.com/BlazersStream or on the NBC Sports App! Plus the Scoop Pregame Show streams at 3:00pm at Facebook.com/CSNNW. The Scoop Postgame Show will stream immediately after the game at Facebook.com/CSNNW
Radio: Rip City Radio 620