TIMBERWOLVES AT TRAIL BLAZERS, 10 P.M. ET

TV: League Pass

  • Eyes will be on the matchup at power forward tonight with All-Stars Kevin Love of Minnesota and LaMarcus Aldridge of Portland going at it. Nearly as important will be the duel at small forward between the Timberwolves’ Andrei Kirilenko and the Trail Blazers’ Nicolas Batum. Minnesota tendered a four-year, $46 million offer sheet to Batum — averaging 20.1 points and 6.0 rebounds for the Blazers thus far — during the summer, but Portland chose to match and retain the restricted free agent. “Nic’s having a good year, but playing against Andrei will be a good test,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “He’s a very good defender, with the length to guard big guys and the quickness and size to bother smaller players.”
  • Wolves coach Rich Adelman talked about the near-acquisition of Blazers forward Batum this past offseason. “Batum is playing really well, and I felt he could have done that with our group,” Adelman said. “Playing with Kevin, Ricky (Rubio), (Nikola) Pekovic and those guys, it would have been a good fit. But the Blazers had control over it, and we’re happy we got Andrei. With all the injuries we’ve had, I don’t know what we’ve had done without him. He has been the glue for us so far.”
  • Love will get time defending Aldridge, but Minnesota will likely open with the 6-11, 290-pound Pekovic guarding Portland’s top scorer. “We want to be physical with LaMarcus, force him off the post,” Adelman said. “Pek is able to do that. If (Aldridge) starts getting in deep and scoring that way plus making jumpers like he can, you’re in real trouble.”
  •  Adelman on Portland point guard Damian Lillard, averaging 19.5 points and 5.8 assists: “He’s probably the best rookie in the league right now.”
  • J.J. Hickson will return to Portland’s starting lineup at center after missing Wednesday’s 114-87 loss at Phoenix with a shoulder injury. Rookie forward Victor Claver (elbow) will not dress.
  • Rubio, who missed the second half of last season following knee surgery, worked out hard before tonight’s game with no problems. The Timberwolves are hopeful the second-year point guard will return to action in a few weeks. “He’s doing good,” Adelman said. “He’s been able to go through all the (non-contact) drills. He has to see the doctor one more time, and maybe after this trip we can get him on the practice floor. It’s just going to take him some time to get his conditioning and timing down.”
  • Portland ranks last in the NBA in opponents’ scoring average (102.9) and opponents’ field-goal percentage (.501). “We had a long talk about that this morning,” Stotts said. “Most of our problems are mostly uncontested or lightly contested shots at the rim. That comes from a variety of reasons, including transition defense and help defense. When we play good defense. it’s usually because we’re more alert and protecting the paint better.”

Kerry Eggers 

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