In the second game of their four game homestand, the Timberwolves shot lights out from behind the arc and took out the Portland Trail Blazers for the second time in less than a week, knocking them off 106-94. The Timberpups played one of their best games as a team and converted 13 of their 23 three-point attempts, and with tonight’s win the Wolves are now tied for the eighth seed in the Western Conference standings. Not bad for a team that won 17 games TOTAL last year.
Kevin Love led his team to another victory at the Target Center and yet again imposed himself on a usually solid Portland defense. K-Love continues to do it all, drilling three-pointer after three-pointer while dominating on the low block. His post game has elevated to a new level, comprising of a bevy of post move combinations that can get virtually any defender to bite at, leaving Love enough space to finish at the rim. Love’s significant loss of weight over this past offseason has contributed to his increased spring in his jump this year and he showed it off on a crowd-pleasing reverse slam, posterizing Lamarcus Aldridge. K-Love finished tonight with 29 points and 16 rebounds, becoming the first player in NBA history to have three consecutive games of at least 25 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 three-pointers in each game.
The big surprise tonight was young Wes Johnson, as he had by far his best game of the season and displayed consistency throughout the entire game. Wes has really found his groove shooting the ball as of late, and he converted 8 of his 11 field goal attempts including 3 for 4 from three-point range. In 28 minutes, Wes recorded 19 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, while miraculously not recording a single turnover. Getting production out of Wes gives this squad an unexpected boost, giving them an edge on any opponent. If he can learn to be consistent and to not disappear throughout long stretches of games, than Wes may have a permanent spot on this squad for many years to come. However, since he depends so much on his jumper for success, Wes has a harder time putting up consistent production, and his shaky confidence tends to take him mentally out of games.
Nikola Pekovic sat out for a second straight night with a sore foot. The Wolves were forced to play smaller tonight, only going with starting center Darko Milicic for 17 minutes and otherwise playing the rest of the game without a true center. Darko failed to score a point and was a nonfactor.
After the first half, the Timberwolves led 61-54, despite being outshot by the Trail Blazers 56%-49%. However, the T-Wolves nailed 8 of their 13 three-point attempts while the Blazers only netted 2 of their 11 three-point attempts. Leading the way for Portland was recently promoted starting PG Raymond Felton, who despite having played one of the worst first halves of a season in his career, earned his starting spot back and responded by scoring 13 points on 6-7 shooting, meanwhile dishing out 6 assists. Felton finished with 23 points and 9 assists, but was unable to hit a few key shots, which would have really helped Portland down the stretch. The Timberwolves and Portland both shot 47% from the field, but the Wolves shot 57% from three while the Trail Blazers shot only 13% from long range.
Continuing his hot shooting streak, Luke Ridnour filled it up despite matching up against 6’8” Nicolas Batum for much of the game. Pop-a-shot played 37 minutes and scored 22 points while dishing out 5 assists and grabbing 4 rebounds. Luke has found a rhythm in Rick Adelman’s offense and his ability to hit open shots has really helped out this ballclub over the course of this season. He has also passed the ball extremely well as of late, and the Timberwolves are finding ways to distribute other than through Ricky Rubio.
Tricky Ricky played only 27 minutes tonight, largely due to being in foul trouble during much of the first half. Although he lacked an eye-popping stat line, Rubio continues to bring great defense and intangibles to the Pups, being an X factor even when he is not at his best shooting the ball. Ricky finished with 8 points and 4 assists, while his backup JJ Barea scored 4 points and tallied 7 dimes. However, in the fourth quarter Barea rolled his left ankle in scary fashion and may once again end up on the shelf. It has been an injury plagued first season playing for the T-Wolves, but Barea has nonetheless been a very important part of this team’s success and they will need him to stay healthy if they are going to continue with their playoff aspirations.
The Pups bench played another great game tonight, and rookie Derrick Williams logged 34 minutes. D-Will scored only 9 points but brought down 11 rebounds, and continues to excel in the second half of this NBA season. Michael Beasley only received 8 minutes but played very well while he was in the game, hitting 2 of his 3 shots and scoring 5 points. After the game, Beasley tweeted, “Winning is all that matters!!!!!” If Beasley is willing to accept a lesser role on the Wolves going forward, then he can definitely be a positive piece to the team moving forward. However, Beas is set to become a restricted free agent after this season and he will surely have many suitors due to his unbelievable ability to score the ball and still young age of 23. As the trade deadline nears, Beasley’s name is sure to continue to pop up in various trade rumors.
Martell Webster gave the Pups quality minutes off the bench and he scored 10 points, missing only one shot. Webster brings great energy every time he steps on the court and gives the Wolves a different look at SG. Rick Adelman is so good at utilizing matchups, and given the Pups’ deep roster, Coach Adelman has a lot to work with.
Tonight marks the first win at the Target Center against Portland since March 2007, and the first time the Timberwolves have won 5 games in a row at home since 2007. The trends are really changing this season and the Pups look to continue their winning ways against the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night.
Key Player: The Target Center felt the Love tonight, and Kevin fell 2 points short of tying Kevin Garnett’s three consecutive games cumulative points record. At 23 years of age, Love has all the time in the world to beat that record.
Key Stat: 13-23 from beyond the arc for the Timberwolves. Three-point shooting has been a strength for the Pups over the last few weeks and has been a big difference maker for a team that struggled to shoot from long range earlier this season.
Photo Credits: HoopsDaily