For the third game of their current roadtrip, the Timberwolves (21-21) traveled to Portland (32-11) to take on the third place Trail Blazers as Minnesota attempted to rise above .500 for the first time since November. The game featured the often publicized matchup of superstar power forwards Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge. Following a very impressive late game victory in Golden State on Friday, the Wolves looked to continue to feed Nikola Pekovic on the low block as he entered Saturday night’s game as the NBA leader in points in the paint for the month of January.
Despite nursing a broken left finger, Nicolas Batum got off to a hot start early, scoring the first two buckets of the game and 11 total points in the first period. On the other end, Kevin Martin was sizzling from the get-go and helped open things up on the low block for Minnesota’s frontcourt, scoring 10 points in the opening quarter. Portland’s length advantage proved to be an obstacle in the paint as both Aldridge and Robin Lopez made life difficult on the low block. Although the Blazers failed to convert on any of their first quarter three-point attempts, they hung around and only trailed the Timberwolves 29-27 after one.
Beginning the second quarter, the Blazers showed off their deep bench and got off on a 9-2 run to start the quarter prompting a frustrated timeout from Rick Adelman. Mo Williams led the scoring attack for Portland, netting 10 quick points while dominating Alexey Shved. Portland kept the momentum and soon after extended their lead to 43-33 with 8:44 left in the quarter. Former Kansas standout Thomas Robinson demonstrated his awesome combination of strength and athleticism as a scorer and rebounder and exploited Dante Cunningham on both ends of the floor. Despite being previously labeled as a bust after failing to live up to lofty expectations in both Sacramento and Houston, Robinson has carved out a niche in Portland’s rotation and the 22-year-old appears to have a bright future in the Association. Ricky Rubio attempted to jumpstart the Wolves’ offense with two consecutive highlight reel passes to a leaking Corey Brewer which trimmed Portland’s lead to 51-46 at the five minute mark. Despite ramping up their defensive intensity, the Wolves trailed the Blazer 65-57 at the half.
- I can’t get over seeing Alexey in that facemask, but it really goes to show his toughness as he hasn’t missed any time after breaking his nose on Tuesday.
- Damian Lillard really struggled in the first half, shooting a miserable 1-10 from the field and getting outplayed by Rubio on both ends.
- K-Mart was scorching in the first half as he scored 20 points on 7-13 shooting, providing an isolation option against a very tough opponent. After jawing with Robinson following a shooting foul call, Martin then missed two consecutive free throws in what was one of the most uncharacteristic sights you will ever see.
- Minnesota’s starting frontcourt played well in the first half as Love recorded 11 points and 6 rebounds while Pek scored 8 points to pair with 7 rebounds.
- Batum failed to score in the second quarter after a hot first, but still contributed in a variety of ways as he finished the half with 5 assists and 4 rebounds.
The Wolves came out with good energy to start the second half and began the third quarter on a 14-6 run, tying the game up at 71 just before the seven minute mark. Brewer’s first three-pointer of the night put the game at 78-76, and two consecutive blocks on the defensive end and a subsequent Martin three gave the Wolves a short-lived lead of 79-78. With Lillard struggling mightily, Portland decided to go back to the red-hot Williams at the point, and he responded by immediately draining a three on their following offensive possession. The Blazers finished the third quarter on a 9-2 run and headed into the final period leading Minnesota 87-81.
Although Minnesota played Portland tough the entire way through, the Wolves were unable to claw their way back and ultimately fell in Portland 115-104. The Wolves allowed the Blazers to score a season-high 60 points in the paint while their bench was outscored 34-15.
This game really came down to bench production as each of Minnesota’s starters were at least a +3 or better, and the Wolves reserves not only did not score well but were also exploited on defense. Love was able to overcome a poor shooting night to post a respectable line of 15 points (4-12 FG, 1-3 3pt) and 13 rebounds in 36 minutes, while Pekovic enjoyed another monster performance of 23 points (9-18 FG) and 11 rebounds in 35 minutes against a very good defender in Lopez. Tricky Ricky played well but still needs to improve his scoring, as he is consistently a liability due to his now nonexistant midrange game. He finished the night with 10 points (4-8 FG) and 11 assists in 37 minutes, while his backup J.J. Barea missed all 4 of his field goal attempts.
Three Stars of the Game
- Mo Williams – Mo proved to be the game-changing lift that the Blazers needed from their bench with Lillard really struggling. Williams sported a game-high +20 on the floor and posted 16 points (6-12 FG, 2-3 3pt), 6 assists and 5 rebounds in only 25 minutes.
- Kevin Martin – The poor play of Minnesota’s bench unfortunately overshadowed a phenomenal game from K-Mart, as he netted 30 points (11-22 FG, 6-10 3pt) while not turning the ball over a single time in 41 minutes of action.
- LaMarcus Aldridge – Portland’s All-Star PF played very well on both ends of the floor and recorded 21 points (9-21 FG) and 6 rebounds in 34 minutes.