Too little, too late. Hosting the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night, the Minnesota Timberwolves nearly overcame a 19-point fourth quarter deficit but ultimately fell by a score of 100-98 to their division rivals. After enduring a 3-12 month of January, the Pups are now 1-2 in the month of February despite having played all 3 games at the Target Center. To add to the misery, Andrei Kirilenko suffered a strained quadriceps in the second quarter on Monday night, and he is expected to miss at least a few games before returning.
Andrei Kirilenko told Sport-Express his injury is "definitely not severe", but feels like rehab will take 7 to 10 days. #Twolves
— Alexander Chernykh (@chernykh) February 5, 2013
The Pups got off to a very slow start and fell behind early, trailing 59-38 at the half. LaMarcus Aldridge really stood out in this game, and made mincemeat out of Minnesota’s interior defense. Matched up against Derrick Williams and Dante Cunningham throughout much of the contest, Aldridge was able to use his length to drain baskets all night on the pair of undersized power forwards. I can imagine it must have been a lot of fun for LaMarcus.
Heading into the fourth quarter, the Timberwolves trailed 77-58. Despite facing a 19-point fourth-quarter deficit, the Pups, led by Ricky Rubio, staged an impressive run but ultimately fell by a single basket. The Trail Blazers got lazy in the second half and fell into a turnover frenzy that the Pups were able to take advantage of. Fortunately for Portland, they had a closer in Aldridge and he came up big on the offensive and defensive ends on the last few possessions of the game.
As if the loss was not enough, yet again one of Minnesota’s floor leaders has fallen to injury. Andrei Kirilenko suffered a strain to his right quadriceps and will likely be out for as much as a week or more. The Timberwolves just can’t catch a break. The Wolves did see some chemistry forming between Ricky Rubio and Dante Cunningham, as Ricky tossed out 14 assists and Dante netted 23 points in 29 minutes.
Nikola was able to play 35 big minutes, and notched a double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds. Pek was guarded by former Cav and King JJ Hickson, who has enjoyed a breakout season after being dumped by the lowly Sacramento Kings not too long ago. Now averaging 12.9 ppg and 10.7 rpg, Hickson is set to be a free agent after this season and could land a sizable contract this summer. Hickson ultimately got the better of the matchup, and finished with 8 points and 9 rebounds in 36 minutes played.
Once again, Chris Johnson received a DNP-CD and does not appear to be in Adelman’s rotation, despite his stellar play in all of his opportunities. Meanwhile, Mickael Gelabale logged 19 minutes and finished with 5 points.
JJ Barea had a very nice night for Minnesota and continues to be Mr. inconsistency as of late. In 27 minutes, Barea scored 17 points while turning the ball over once, meshing well with Rubio and running the floor very well. Minnesota’s comeback can largely be attributed to their decision to go with a smaller lineup in the fourth, and it was encouraging to see our favorite Spanish backcourt feeding off each other.
Keys of the Game
- Shot-Blocking: POR 8, MN 2 - Highlighted by LaMarcus Aldridge’s block of Rubio on Minnesota’s second to last possession, Portland had a clear advantage due to their length and athleticism, especially following Andrei Kirilenko’s departure due to injury in the first half.
- Rebounding: POR 39, MN 29 - The loss of AK-47 greatly impacted Minnesota’s physicality in the paint, and Portland bigs Aldridge and JJ Hickson established themselves on the defensive glass, holding the Timberwolves to a relatively few 10 offensive rebounds.
Three Stars of the Game
- LaMarcus Aldridge - Playing against the Kevin Love-less Timberwolves must be a breath of fresh air for Portland’s All-Star power forward, and he took full advantage of his mismatch on the low block. Portland’s former number-2 overall pick scored 25 points (12-17 FG) and pulled down 13 rebounds, and his late jumper and block of Rubio with 7.9 seconds remaining helped Portland to close out what would have been a huge come-from-behind win for Minnesota. The 6-foot-11 Aldridge tallied 5 assists, 2 blocks, 1 steal and 2 turnovers in 39 minutes of playing time.
- Wesley Matthews - Matthews embodies everything that the Wolves are currently missing from the shooting guard position: three-point shooting, size, strength and athleticism. Portland did a good job of attacking Minnesota’s weaknesses and using off-ball screens to free up space for Matthews, who alone converted 4 of the Blazers 7 three-point field goals. The former Madison (WI) Memorial HS star tallied 5 assists, but also committed 5 of the teams 28 turnovers. Nonetheless, he shot 7-11 from the field on his way to 22 points in 39 minutes for the Blazers.
- Ricky Rubio - If there is one thing for Timberwolves fans to take from this game, it was the superb play of Rubio, especially in the second half. Rubio recorded 10 of his career-high-tying 14 assists in the fourth quarter and fueled a vicious comeback in which the Timberwolves outscored the Blazers 40-23 in the final period of play. Although the comeback ultimately proved futile, Tricky Ricky deserves a lot of praise for his late-game heroics despite playing with a shorthanded roster. The Spaniard recorded double digit scoring for just the second time this season, and scored 15 points on 4-9 shooting in 33 minutes of playing time.