In a Nutshell
The Blazers invert their usual road M.O., jumping all over the Timberwolves early and then throwing it in neutral for the rest of the game en route to an easy victory. Dante Cunningham doesn't get the memo and plays with frantic energy the entire game, resulting in career highs in points and rebounds, notching more combined than either the guy who made the All-Star game or the guy who almost did.
You could almost envision the psyche up on the Minnesota side of the building tonight. "We've lost more than a dozen in a row to these guys. This is the last time we see them this year. We don't want to keep that streak alive for a whole 'nother season. This is our night! Let's go out there and take them!!!" Then the Blazers actually hit the court. SMACK! DUNK! SWISH! BLUDGEON! WHACKITY-WHACK-WHACK SPANK SPANK SPANK! And......the game was over by the 6:00 mark of the first period. 18-2 Blazers lead, so much for that. It was like Black Adder showed up on an episode of 24. You've got talent. You're pretty funny sometimes. You're in over your head.
It's not like Portland played a brilliant game either. They didn't go to Aldridge enough after the first quarter. They fumbled away easy looks. Their shooting was lazy and a little bit off. But it didn't matter. Target may sponsor the arena but the 'Wolves offense, defense, and tonight even rebounding was pure Dollar Tree. No Martha Stewart collection here. Just six-packs of plastic kids cups and a whole bunch of barely-expired Canadian peanut butter. The 'Wolves did make mini-runs but every time they threatened Aldridge hit over Love or Milicic or went around Pekovic or Andre Miller posted up "What Happened to You?" Jonny Flynn or Wesley Matthews hit a three or Dante Cunningham powered home an offensive rebound. The end. See ya. Blazers win by 14, 95-81.
The hot start was nice to see. Hopefully the Blazers will learn from the experience. The bench can play more. Everybody relaxes. Big margin for error. Much more fun.
Aldridge only scored 21 instead of the usual 30-ish. 11 of those came in the pivotal first period. The 'Wolves were sending double teams as soon as he made a move. He responded with some nice passing, thus 5 assists. Good game. He was there when the Blazers needed him without forcing the action.
Dante Cunningham combined the last three weeks of effort into one game tonight. He was a whirlwind on the boards, nabbing 13, plus he shot 9-14 for 18 points. He moved faster than anyone out there tonight, including the small guards.
Andre Miller only went 3-11 but he made it clear he could abuse any Minnesota guard at any time in the post. As with Aldridge, the Blazers didn't need him to do so, so he chilled on offense. Did I mention the 8 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 steals? He contributed in other ways.
Wesley Matthews had a game-high 23 points, connecting on 3-6 three pointers and adding 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals. This was his second straight aggressive game. Maybe he's coming back around? Or maybe he just likes being defended by Pistons and Timberwolves.
Nicolas Batum needs to understand that this is basketball, not Where's Waldo. This here dunk was his contribution for the evening outside of a little of that important mobile defense. He might as well have jammed it on Darko and just run for the tunnel. Ladies and Gentlemen, Nicolas has left the building.
Rudy Fernandez had another great night with 18 points on 6-10 shooting, 4-7 from distance. Sometimes his shots just fall. Then that quick-release is one of the scariest things in the NBA.
Patty Mills? Meh. Then again, Meh = 2 more points than Minnesota's starting guard combo of Flynn and Corey Brewer.
Watching Joel Przybilla just makes me a little sad inside now. I keep running his current play past the highlight reels in my mind from years past. Mike Barrett repeats often that it will take some time. I wonder.
Sean Marks hit a nice corner three! Take THAT, slow, burly Minnesota centers!
Stats of the Night
- Minnesota only 30 points in the paint
- Minnesota's bench outscores their starters 64-17. Love was the only starter with more than 4 points. He had 12.
- Blazers 11 steals
- Blazers 8-18 from three. The 'Wolves couldn't guard Aldridge before that. After? Forget it.
Odd Notes and Links
Not even Canis Hoopus can spin this well.