Without two of their top players, the Timberwolves will try to beat their Northwest Division rivals for just the third time in over five years Saturday night.
Love is nursing a sprained finger on his right hand, which forced him to exit in the third quarter of Thursday’s 101-97 win at Denver. He still finished with 12 points and 17 rebounds in 24 minutes.
He broke the same hand in October, missing the opening nine games of the season, and he’s sat out a couple more last month with eye and thumb ailments. The injuries have contributed to Love’s 35.2 percent shooting from the floor, nearly 10 percent less than his career average.
“He said he could have played, but he couldn’t shoot,” coach Rick Adelman said Thursday.
Rubio, whose minutes have been managed since recovering from knee surgery, will miss his fourth straight game due to back spasms that Adelman thinks is being caused by his point guard overcompensating for his knee injury.
The Timberwolves (15-14) have dropped 18 of the last 20 meetings with the Trail Blazers, while going 2-11 with Love, who is averaging 17.8 points and 10.7 rebounds.
While Love will be missed in the frontcourt, J.J. Barea will try to again fill Rubio’s void by looking to build on a strong performance after totaling 17 points and five assists Thursday. He had only four points while making 1 of 8 from the field, while the Timberwolves shot a season-low 34.5 percent - 2 for 17 from long range - in a 106-84 loss at Utah a day earlier.
Minnesota made 44.6 percent from the floor - 6 for 16 from beyond the arc - against the Nuggets.
“You’re going to have a couple of games a year like we did in Utah,” said guard Luke Ridnour who had 14 points Thursday after totaling 12 in the previous two games. “You just don’t want to have too many of them. Fortunately, everybody bounced back.”
The Trail Blazers, 2-1 on this four-game road trip, had their own bounce-back performance Friday, winning 86-84 at Memphis following a 102-79 defeat to Toronto two days prior. They held the Grizzlies to 39.5 percent from the floor after the Raptors hit 53.2.
“We have to be resilient,” guard Wesley Matthews said. “We have players that have been through the fire. We are full of resilient players.”
Another strong performance from Matthews would help. He had 21 points while hitting 5 of 8 3-pointers against the Grizzlies after totaling 20 points in his first two games since missing six of the previous nine with a strained left hip.
Portland (17-15) is 5-2 when he scores at least 20.
Matthews is averaging 21.5 points while converting 51.7 percent of his shots from the floor over his past eight meetings with Minnesota, including a season-high 30 points in a 103-95 victory Nov. 23.
LaMarcus Aldridge who will likely find himself matched up with Love, managed 13 points in that game, but he’s averaging 23.0 over the past four visits to the Target Center. He had 15 points and 12 rebounds while making 5 of 15 field goals Friday.