Minnesota Timberwolves 95 – Portland Trail Blazers 103

Steve Dykes – US Presswire

Entering tonight’s game, the Minnesota Timberwolves were on a three game losing skid and traveled to the Pacific Northwest to take on the closest thing they currently have to a rivalry in the Portland Trailblazers.  The Blazers came into the game in last place in the Northwest division at 5-6 on the season.  The loser of tonight’s game was destined for the cellar of the division, so clearly the pressure was on 11 games into the season.  (That was my best impersonation of working for ESPN, hope you liked it.)

Similar to Wednesday night, the Pups starting lineup consisted of Ridnour, Lee, Kirilenko, Love, and Pekovic.  No surprises on the Blazers starting five, as they opened the game with Lillard, Matthews, Batum, Aldridge, and Hickson.  Despite missing Brandon Roy and his return to Portland, a number of Pups have ties to Portland and could be viewed as “returning home”; with David Kahn and Kevin Love from the area and Rick Adelman’s past coaching successes with the franchise.  You can also throw in Luke Ridnour’s time at the University of Oregon.

The game itself got off to a very hot start.  The teams went into the first timeout about six minutes into the game with the Wolves holding an 18-13 lead.  Pekovic was dominant for the Wolves with a quick eight points.  Luke Ridnour also looked on target, hitting his first two jumpers for a quick five points.  Unfortunately, Luke was getting lit up on the other side of the floor, as Damian Lillard opened up with a quick seven points as well.

The 1st quarter ended with the Wolves up 33-28.  Aside from Pek and Ridnour, Love also had a strong quarter with six points and five rebounds.  The Blazers were completely overmatched in the paint for much of the quarter.  The “almost Pup” Nicholas Batum had a very nice quarter as well, doing a little bit of everything to help keep the Blazers in the game.

About six minutes into the 2nd quarter, Minnesota was able to double their lead to ten, largely using their reserve unit.  That reserve unit once again did not consist of Derrick Williams.  It is also worth noting that the Blazers bench provided virtually nothing in production.  I would expect the Blazers to really struggle late in the season, as they are going to have to rely on their starters for heavy minutes night in and night out.

At the end of the 2nd quarter, the Wolves maintained their five point lead, 55-50.  Portland’s starting backcourt was the only reason this game was close, as Lillard and Matthews combined for 31 points and 6 assists at halftime.  The Wolves continued to dominate down low, with Pekovic and Love providing the inside muscle to lead the way for the team.

Here are a few halftime thoughts through my Wolves lens:

  • Derrick Williams and Greg Stiemsma combined for 0 seconds on the floor in the first half.  The former shouldn’t be on the roster by the end of this road trip.  The latter has been struggling mightily over the past few games and is now behind Lou Amundson in the rotation, at least for the time being.
  • I love how the Twolves digital team is using various forms of social media and engaging fans not at the stadium.

The 3rd quarter got off to a bit of a chippy start.  Within the first few minutes of the quarter, Love and Aldridge picked up double technical fouls as the Blazers immediately cut into the Pups lead.  However, with the assistance of the T, Aldridge picked up his 5th personal foul before we were halfway through the quarter.

Both teams entered the penalty in the 3rd with more than four minutes left in the quarter.  In other words, the game lost the flow that was seen in the 1st half and play was consistently blown dead without too many trips up and down the court.

At the end of the 3rd, the Blazers held an 81-78 lead, thanks to a Nic Batum three pointer as the clock wound down to end the quarter.  Portland outscored the Wolves 31-23 in the 3rd, led again by Damian Lillard, who had 24 points and 7 assists through three.  In one word – wow!  The Wolves didn’t look good in the last few minutes of the quarter at all and that was only the beginning.

The 4th quarter felt like a runaway train as a Pups fan.  The Blazers opened up the quarter on a 14-6 run to increase the lead to 11 points, going into a Wolves timeout to try to stop the bleeding.  The Wolves could have called three TO’s in a row and it wouldn’t have mattered, as Wes Matthews caught fire in the quarter and finished the game with 30 points, as the Wolves fell 103-95 to the Blazers.

The Pups continued to miss FT’s (28-37 on the night) but this didn’t feel like the Charlotte and/or Denver loss.  They were outplayed in the 2nd half and the guard play from Portland completely dominated the Wolves.  The Ridnour/Barea backcourt used in the 2nd half of the game was atrocious.  It looked like the ‘11/’12 version of Barea and that isn’t a compliment whatsoever.  Finally, I’m not sure if it is the return of Love or a bit of fatigue, but Andrei Kirilenko has lost a bit of his mojo.  The ball needs to go through his hands more often on the offensive side of the court.

Three Stars of the Game:

  1. Damian Lillard
  2. Wesley Matthews
  3. Kevin Love

Paging Dr. Rubio, we need you!  Live from rumor-ville: in pregame, it was mentioned that Rubio could be cleared to practice with the team when they return to the Twin Cities.  We’re teetering on some sort of edge here right now.  Prior to the season, my goal for this team was to tread water until Love and Rubio returned.  It may be the hot start that increased expectations, but things need to get fixed quickly.