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The Portland Trail Blazers and Minnesota Timberwolves will meet for the second half off their back-to-back on Sunday. Portland won the first meeting 125-121, behind 26 from Carmelo Anthony and 25 Damian Lillard.
Minnesota (8-30) enters the second half of this back-to-back shorthanded, just as they’ve been all year. They desperately missed star Karl-Anthony Towns presence, and as he returned, D’Angelo Russell would appear on the injury report. Along with missing D-Lo, the T’Wolves are also missing scoring machine Malik Beasley, who’s been there most consistent scorer this season and second year swingman Jarrett Culver. Beasley averages averages 20.5 points per game, while Russell scores 19.3 ppg, and dishes out 5.2 assists per game.
Despite missing that big chunk of production, Minnesota was able to win their first game after the All-Star break behind a big game from rookie sensation Anthony Edwards and a career high from second year guard Jaylen Norwell. Edwards is starting to heat up, he’s averaging 15.2 ppg and he’s scored 20 or more in four of his last five games. Norwell scored 28 points, and he’s began to play his way into the T’Wolves rotation. Karl-Anthony Towns has returned in solid form, and he averages 22.3 ppg, and grabs 10.7 rpg. He scored 34 points in last nights loss. Ricky Rubio’s return to Minnesota has been fitting and helpful, and he leads the team in assists (6.5).
Portland (22-15) has endured their own injury problems but Damian Lillard has keep them afloat with his MVP form. Despite losing All-Star guard C.J. McCollum and skilled big man Jusuf Nurkic, Lillard has kept Portland in the playoff race in the crowded Western Conference. Dame is averaging 29.8 points per game, and he’s dishing out a career-high 8.1 assists per game.
Injuries to McCollum and Nurkic have led to increased production from the wings. Gary Trent Jr. has really stepped up and turned a corner this season. The third year guard is averaging a career-high 15.3 points per game, and he’s leading the team in three point percentage (40.4). Carmelo Anthony’s career revival has also been a positive story brewing in the Northwest. The 10x NBA-All Star is averaging 13.9 ppg, and he turned the clock back a few weeks ago against Charlotte, scoring a season-high 29 points.
The acquisitions of Robert Covington and Derrick Jones Jr. has improved the Portland defense dramatically. RoCo is also starting to find his shot from deep, and he’s hit three triples in three of his last four games. Jones Jr. has expanded on his role in Portland, showing he’s more than just a dunker. He’s also no longer the only Slam Dunk Champion on the roster, as third year guard Anfernee Simons won the award over the All-Star break.
The Bottom Line
What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
Portland has won four of their last five games and Minnesota enters this one banged up. The combination of Damian Lillard, Enes Kanter, and this group of wings Portland has is special. There about to embark on a playoff run, and there’s starting to hit their stride. Trust them to complete this back-to-back with a win over Minnesota.
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