Closing out the western swing, the Timberwolves visited the Rose Garden Saturday night to take on the Trail Blazers. Minnesota entered the game on a four game losing streak while the Blazers still have hopes of grabbing the bottom seed in the western conference playoffs.
Unfortunately, more changes were needed in the Wolves starting lineup Saturday night as both Kirilenko and Pekovic were scratched from the game. The Pups starting lineup consisted of – Rubio, Ridnour, Gelabale, Williams, and Stiemsma. The Blazers opened up with Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge, and JJ Hickson.
Going into the first timeout / stoppage of play, the Blazers had built a 7 point lead, 17-10. Greg Stiemsma was already on the bench with two quick fouls. With Pekovic’s injury it was a given that Chris Johnson would get minutes Saturday night, but Stiemsma’s inability to stay on the court and avoid foul trouble has become a bit nauseating for Wolves fan (or at least one of them…).
The Wolves defense struggled to do anything to stop the Blazers in the 1st quarter, as the home team held a 31-19 lead after the first twelve minutes. Story of the quarter is vastly similar to the past few weeks (months?) for the Pups: 9-24 on FG’s for 38% and 0-4 from 3PT range, while the Blazers were 12-23 from the field for 52% and 3-5 from 3PT range.
The 2nd quarter was pretty slow going, or at least it felt that way. The Pups outscored the Blazers 25-20 in the quarter but trailed by six points, 51-45. While the Wolves were able to cut into the lead, no one stood out on the team beyond Derrick Williams (broken record alert). The Blazers cooled off in the 2nd quarter and that felt like the crux of why the Wolves were back in the game more than anything else.
Here are a few halftime thoughts through my Wolves lens:
- I’m just going to assume that Ricky Rubio is going to be working on his jumper all offseason and will be a solid offensive threat next year. (Fantasy league stud in 13/14)
- An underrated move from several weeks ago was the Blazers acquisition of Eric Maynor.
- Chris Johnson needs more PT. Please!
The game more or less fell apart for the undermanned Wolves in the second half. The Blazers built a 17 point lead in the 3rd quarter at several points. Without Pekovic, the Wolves had no answer for JJ Hickson, who hit the double-double threshold early and kept going.
I’m not sure if Alexey Shved has hit another wall or not, but Adelman is not giving him heavy minutes and it really can’t, or at least shouldn’t be, due to what Ridnour and Barea are doing on the court for the team. At the end of the 3rd quarter, the Blazers held an 83-71 lead.
The Wolves made several very small runs but never truly threatened to take over the game in the 4th quarter. Luke Ridnour caught fire early in the quarter, but it felt more like a nice run by an individual player vs. the start of a big move that would help catapult the team to take over the game. Sure enough, Terry Stotts would call the appropriate timeouts and get his team back in gear.
The Blazers outscored the Wolves 58-50 in the second half and pulled out the 109-94 victory. The win completed the season sweep for the Blazers over the Wolves, which wound up being the fifth time in six seasons that Portland has been able to claim this feat. Given all of the missing cogs in the Wolves machine, this really should not have been a surprise for anyone watching the game on NBA TV.
While Rubio flirted with another triple-double (12, 9, and 9), he continues to turn the ball over too much and opposing teams are laying off of him on the offensive end, daring him to shoot jumpers. Unfortunately for us Wolves fans, that plan is working, as Rubio continues to struggle to with his shot.
Rather than harping on that particular part of the game, I found myself asking what would be the better scenario for the Wolves moving forward more often than not while watching the second half. Is it moving forward with Kevin Love, Derrick Williams, both, or the supplemental players that the team can put together by moving one or the other in the future? I need to think about this a lot more before putting down my thoughts on paper.
Keys of the Game
- Talent / Health – I am absolutely copping out on this one, as this claim could be made for most of the season. The Pups were missing way too much talent on the floor in Saturday’s game at the Rose Garden.
- Shooting – The Wolves shot under 40% again for the game and only made 1-12 3PT’s. While the team continues to show an ability to get to the FT line, they missed 11 FT’s, going 25-36 from the charity stripe.
Three Stars of the Game
- JJ Hickson – Hickson finished with 18 and 16 on the evening and torched Stiemsma and CJ throughout the evening.
- Damian Lillard – Newsflash, Lillard is good, putting up 24, 6, and 4 for the future ROY, and a game high +22 in the +/- category.
- Derrick Williams – Williams missed his season high by one point but still put up a 23 and 8 for the Wolves and was probably the lone bright spot for the team.