Knowing what has to happen to beat the Portland Trailblazers isn’t that difficult. But actually doing it? That’s another thing.
To slow the Blazers – something the Wolves will attempt to do tonight at Target Center -- you have to slow their backcourt of point guard Damon Lillard and shooting guard C.J. McCollum. Both are young, both are 6-3, and both are scoring lots of points. Lillard is ninth in the league in both scoring (24.5) and assists (7.1). McCollum is averaging 19.6 points per game. Between Lillard (17 times) and McCollum (twice), the pair has led the Blazers in scoring in all but one game this season.
But it starts with Lillard. “He’s a great player,” Wolves point guard Ricky Rubio said. “He’s in attack mode all the time. We have to be up in the pick and roll, make him pass the ball, and deny as much as we can. We know he’s an elite point guard in this league. We will try make him take bad shots.’’
This is the second game with Portland this season. The Blazers spoiled the Wolves’ home opener Nov. 2. In that game the Wolves got off to a great start, at one point leading by 17 in the opening quarter. But the Blazers pulled within 13 entering the second quarter, then out-scored the Wolves 62-46 over the second and third quarters, eventually winning 106-101.
Lillard scored 34 in that game, hitting on 14 of 25 shots. He has scored 30 or more points in two of his last three games vs. the Wolves.
McCollum scored 18 points vs. the Wolves back on Nov. 2. A member of the 2013 draft class, McCollum was still on the board when the Wolves were set to draft at No. 9. But the Wolves, who were interested in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, went another direction when Pope was taken by Detroit with the eighth pick. The Wolves opted to draft Trey Burke, then trade him to Utah in a deal that gave the Wolves two picks later in the first round, which turned out to be Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng.
McCollum was taken at No. 10 by Portland.
He and Lillard have become a very productive and young backcourt.
“We know that both guards have a lot of scoring,” Rubio said. “We want to take that away from them. We’re going to be focusing on that, try to make the other guys beat us, not the two guards.’’
We’ll see if it works. The Wolves are 4-12 vs. Portland at Target Center since the 2007-08 season.