Fri, 09 Jun 2023

Depleted Wolves eager to bounce back vs. Blazers

Field Level Media
02 Apr 2023, 04:40 GMT+10

The Minnesota Timberwolves are battling an illness that has swept through their roster at the worst possible time.

Minnesota (39-39) hopes to be in better health for Sunday's matchup against the visiting Portland Trail Blazers (32-45), who will miss out on the playoffs for the second straight season.

The Wolves are in ninth place in the Western Conference standings with four games remaining. Minnesota entered Saturday 1 1/2 games ahead of the 11th-place Dallas Mavericks, with teams in the 7-10 spots qualifying for the play-in tournament.

One of several players dealing with illness, Wolves guard Anthony Edwards was held to 11 points on 4-of-16 shooting in Friday's 123-111 home loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. Minnesota led by as many as 13 points early in the third quarter before the Lakers took control.

Karl-Anthony Towns, Taurean Prince, Mike Conley, Austin Rivers and Kyle Anderson have all been sick over the past week, but Minnesota coach Chris Finch isn't making any excuses.

"We've been here before," Finch said. "No one is going to feel sorry for us. We've got to pick ourselves up. We've got four to play and we've got to get back on the march."

The Wolves are also missing a key rotation player in forward Naz Reid, who is out for an extended period after suffering a broken left wrist against the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday.

Conley had 25 points and seven assists against the Lakers, while Towns scored 23. After facing Portland, the Wolves end the season with road games against the Brooklyn Nets and San Antonio Spurs before returning home to face the New Orleans Pelicans.

Even with several players under the weather, Conley said the Timberwolves remain focused on a strong finish.

"We're doing whatever we can. We're watching film, staying late at practice, getting there early. We're locked in," Conley said. "We're in a good state of mind. We're a team that has been through some ups and downs the last few weeks.

"It seems like every other game we've got something new popping up. We've found a way to rally around it and move forward, so this is another one of those obstacles we have to deal with."

Minnesota lost its first two meetings against Portland this season before winning 113-106 on Jan. 4.

The Blazers are pointing toward next season and will likely be without injured starters Damian Lillard (right calf), Jusuf Nurkic (right knee), Anfernee Simons (right foot) and Jerami Grant (left quad) for Sunday's matchup.

Portland has lost five straight and 11 of its last 12 games. The latest setback came in Friday's 138-114 loss to the Sacramento Kings.

"It always sucks to lose," Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said. "To get to this point in the season, I didn't think we would be here last year, to be honest with you, but we are. These games are tough. Tough on me, tough at all levels."

One bright spot has been the play of rookie guard Shaedon Sharpe, who scored 27 points against the Kings and has averaged 24.3 points over the past six games.

"He's seeing so many new things every single night," Billups said. "He's going to be fine. He learns things so quickly. We'll go over things and watch film and talk about what we need and, boom, right away he knows how to do it. He's doing good."

--Field Level Media

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