Long Story Short: The Blazers did exactly what they were supposed to, riding a career high from Nicolas Batum and some more hot jump-shooting from LaMarcus Aldridge to blow away the hapless Timberwolves before the second half got old.
There isn't actually that much to say about this game, thank goodness. The one thing we were hoping to avoid was any kind of excitement in Minnesota. That is strictly reserved for Snow Queens and cream-based soups. The Blazers preserved that sanctity tonight.
The game started out decently with LaMarcus Aldridge scoring Portland's first 8 points via a combination of listlessly-defended jumpers and floor-running. Although they're talented Minnesota's big guys--Al Jefferson, Kevin Love, Darko Milicic--all look like they went overboard on the hot dish. You could fit two LaMarcuses, a case of bobbleheads, and Uncle Olaf's bottle of aquavit inside any of their uniforms. Consequently they couldn't keep up with Aldridge. On the other end of the court, though, Al Jefferson was banging inside and the ‘Wolves were using that same size to snag offensive rebounds like they were dinner mints. Portland led after one, but only by 2.
The second quarter was an amazing snooze-fest. On the bright side the Timberwolves couldn't buy a bucket or an offensive rebound so their scoring stopped faster than Ole's after Lena caught him giving squeezing lessons to the milkmaid. Unfortunately Portland's second unit clicked like a garage sale clock. The entire affair was turning into a refund-worthy disaster until the ‘Wolves obliged the Blazers by turning the ball over repeatedly. With the run-outs and conversions Portland crept into respectable territory, scoring 22 in the period. Minnesota managed 10. Blazers lead by 14 at the half.
The second half belonged almost entirely to Nicolas Batum. He deep-fried the ‘Wolves like a State Fair pickle, hitting threes, driving and dunking, anything he wanted. He ended up with 31 for the game, most of them in the third period. Their offensive rebounding never returned and when the Blazers extended the lead by a dozen more in the third the ‘Wolves figured it was time to pull the dock from the lake, shut the curtains, and look forward to next year. Portland wins by 19, 110-91.
The Blazers did well in most aspects of this game. The standout stats are 28 free throw makes on 35 shots versus Minnesota's 13-17, 29 assists on 37 made buckets, limiting the ‘Wolves to 8 offensive rebounds for the game, and netting 34 points off of 19 ‘Wolves turnovers while committing only 7 T.O.'s themselves. The Blazers also got 18 fast break points.
The night really belonged to Batum and Aldridge. Nic had 31 points off of 11-16 shooting, 5-8 from range, 4-4 from the line, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 steals in his best all-around game as a Blazer. Aldridge pounded the ‘Wolves early and wasn't needed later to add to his 21 points on 8-14 shooting. He drew 7 foul shots as well, a huge number for him.
Rudy Fernandez shot well in 23 minutes, going 5-8 for 18 points. Brandon Roy set it in cruise control when the other folks stepped up scoring. He had only 7 points but dished 9 assists and added 3 steals. Martell Webster had a rough shooting night but got active on defense and ended up with 7 rebounds.
The Blazers are now set up nicely to have the trip they really, really needed to have after those two home losses. Only the Grizzlies stand in their way of a 4-1 outing. But the Memphis game is the most important of all for a variety of reasons. If they don't win on Monday night the trip looks mediocre. But they've created another opportunity to show that they do mean to be reckoned with down the stretch. Now let's hope they can follow through.
Get the feel of the game over at CanisHoopus.
This was the final game of February and you can tell by the scoreboard that our Jersey Winner for the month was TheGreatMon, who obliterated the rest of the competition, scoring 740 points. The next nearest score was Machairi's 671 followed by SonicTonic with 669. Congrats to all who did well. Enjoy the March contest and don't forget the Jersey Contest playoffs are coming soon!