Fresh off of a pair of tough road losses to the Lakers and Suns, the Timberwolves came into Portland not having won at the Rose Garden since December 2005, and not having beaten the Trail Blazers at any venue since March 2007. However, the new-look Timberpups shot 54% as a team from the field going on to score a season high 122 points, taking down the Trail Blazers 122-110.
Kevin Love, who grew up just outside of Portland in Lake Oswego, fell 1 point short of tying his career high point total and ended with 42 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 assists in 42 minutes of play. Notably, K-Love did not turn the ball over once and showed off his three-point contest skills as he netted 5 of his 8 three-point attempts. Love was very effective catching-and-shooting but also when using ball fakes to get his defender in the air and driving past him for easy buckets.
Martell Webster put on a clinic tonight and showed his former team what they are missing. Before being traded by Portland to Minnesota in exchange for the draft rights to Luke Babbitt (wait, who?), Martell Webster was selected 6th overall in the 2005 NBA draft. Webster was a standout prep basketball player at the nearby Seattle Preparatory School, but injuries and the presence of Brandon Roy kept Webster from having a very significant role with the Blazers. However, Marty (as head coach Rick Adelman calls him) filled up the stat sheet with a season high 21 points on 7-10 shooting (3-5 from three) and 8 rebounds. Meanwhile, Luke Babbitt failed to make an appearance in tonight’s game and is averaging just 1 point per contest this season. Can David Kahn get some credit for this trade, please?
Ricky Rubio had another great passing but poor shooting night, dishing out 12 assists and scoring 6 points on 1-8 shooting. Tricky Ricky tallied an incredible 10 assists in the first quarter during the Timberwolves red hot shooting, and although he had only 2 assists from that point on he played very good defense and helped to run the offense with efficiency. In his relief, JJ Barea, who was doubtful for the game with a strained calf, played well and scored 6 points on 3-5 shooting.
After scoring 40 points in the first quarter, the Pups only led at halftime 61-60 in a poor defensive effort from both squads. The Pups were careless with the basketball in the second quarter, and the Blazers recorded an astounding 7 steals in the second quarter alone. Portland brought the full court press in the second quarter and was able to force 4 Timberwolves turnovers in just the first minute of the period. Many of the Pups turnovers happened after Michael Beasley substituted in, as Beasley really slowed down the tempo of the offense and was careless holding and passing the basketball. Beas needs to turn up his intensity and concentration at this point in the season (and frankly, his career) if he wants to play more than 13 minutes like he did tonight.
Rookie Derrick Williams continued his fine play tonight and scored 15 points on 5-8 shooting in only 20 minutes. D-Will showed off his superb athleticism and finesse, hitting jump shots in the face of his defender and finishing in the lane through contact. Williams appears to have the favor of coach Adelman over Beasley, and the ongoing trade speculation surrounding Beas may very well materialize in a trade before this season’s March 15 trade deadline.
For the Trail Blazers, Nicolas Batum showcased his talents to a potential trade suitor in the T-Wolves, ending with 29 points while playing great defense. Since replacing Wesley Matthews as the starting SG this season, Batum has averaged over 19 points per game and is one of the top defenders on the team. Standing at 6’8” and weighing in at just over 200 lbs, Batum can play SG or SF and has the ability to play lockdown defense on the 1,2, and 3 (just ask Chris Paul). After failing to reach a contract extension with the Blazers before this season’s deadline, Batum and his agent have stated that they will take a look at all other 29 NBA teams before talking with the Blazers in free agency this coming offseason. However, Batum is going to be a restricted free agent and Portland will have the ability to match any offer that Batum receives. Due to Portland’s lack of financial flexibility, they may choose to either trade Batum before the deadline or let him walk. The latter seems very unlikely, and if it is determined that it is not financially feasible or possible to give the 23 year old the big bucks, then teams such as the Timberwolves may have their chance to land a future all-star at the SG or SF position.
The Pups found much of their success tonight driving after using pump-fakes, getting defenders in the air and attacking the rim. As a team, the Wolves were red-hot shooting the ball, and their hot shooting mainly derived from driving and kicking to open teammates on the wing. On defense, the Wolves were sloppy and need to develop patience while defending on the ball, as they continue to bite at almost every shot fake and are making it easy for their opponents to penetrate into the lane.
Newly re-signed big man Joel Przybilla played great defense and for the most part shut down Nikola Pekovic, who scored 9 points in 30 minutes. Przybilla saw an increased role tonight after starting center Marcus Camby cut his chin in the first quarter, requiring 8 stitches. However, foul trouble forced Przybilla to the bench in the second half and all-star Lamarcus Aldridge was not able to play effective defense as a center.
Despite averaging 28 points per game over his last five matchups against the Wolves, Aldridge scored only 14 points tonight and was flat-out dominated by fellow all-star PF Kevin Love.
Key Player: Kevin Love returned to his roots and stunned his family and close friends with arguably his best game of the season.
Key Stat: The Timberwolves shot 12-23 from behind the arc and the improved shooting of Martell Webster is helping to turn the casual missed wide-open looks that Wolves fans have grown accustomed to into more completed assists.
Image: John Lariviere/oregonsportsphotos.com