Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
After taking a 22 point lead, the Portland Trail Blazers got a huge scare from the Minnesota Timberwolves (sans Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio), but rode their hot three-point shooting for another road win. The Blazers finished their short 4 game East Coast trip with an unexpected 3-1 record.
The Blazers were led by Nicolas Batum, who shot 9-11 (5-6 from three) to score 26 points. Wesley Matthews was also hot from three, shooting 5-7 for 26 points. Damian Lillard's 20 points and 6 assists, and LaMarcus Aldridge's 14 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists, also helped the cause.
First Quarter: The interior play of the Wolves was seen right off the bat, using rebounding to get an early advantage. However, the Blazers drew 2 fouls on Nicola Pekovic, freeing up some room inside. At the same time, Matthews went down with his injured hip. However, with a boost from Victor Claver, the Blazers went on a 9-0 run to take a 6 point lead. They blew that lead with a few boneheaded plays in the final seconds, clinging to a 2 point lead at the buzzer.
Claver plays with a lot of poise. Starting to become a big fan.
Second Quarter: Portland's shooting was well off the mark early, but Minnesota wasn't any better. Suddenly, Matthews checked back in, and said his hip isn't Kryptonite. He hit three three-pointers, and Lillard one, to bump the Blazer lead to 14 out of nowhere. However, as Pekovic returned, it didn't take long for the Wolves to cut the lead back to single-digits. After a timeout, the Blazers brought their starters back, and the double-digit lead returned too. The Blazer lead was 10 at halftime, thanks to 8-14 three point shooting.
Ya know, I thought Minny would be pretty good this year, It’s funny if our cruddy team ends up above them.
Third Quarter: Lillard opened up the scoring with another three-pointer. The Blazers struggled to score, but they looked like Finals contenders compared to the Wolves, who had a lid over their hoop. When the Blazer lead reached 16, Minnesota took timeout. Out of that timeout, the on-fire Batum got two open three pointers. Swish. Swish. 22 point lead. However, the Wolves wouldn't miss every shot, and as the Blazer bench arrived, the lead dropped to 18 after three.
I find the TWolves to be perhaps the NBA's ugliest team. If it weren’t for that cutie Rubio and handsome Dante, they’d be complete ug.
by Y5k [http://year5000.bandcamp.com]
Fourth Quarter: Babbitt for three, swish. The Blazers were red-hot from the perimeter. However, Minnesota starting finding the net again, and mounted a comeback attempt. Luke and Claver hit back to back three's to keep the Blazers rolling. Nonetheless, an awful turnover by Price led to an easy two for Minnesota, cutting the lead to 16 and forcing a Blazer timeout. But the Minnesota run was on against the Blazer bench, who turned the ball over while giving up dunks. Soon the lead was 12 after Derrick Williams hit a three, then 10 with Luke Ridnour free throws. The Blazer starters came back in and got to work. However, another turnover led to a Barea three-pointer, cutting the lead to 7. Then another turnover led to free throws to cut it to 5. The Blazers began to melt down in frustration (they were clearly unhappy with the refereeing), forcing a timeout. And another Blazer turnover (!) led to another free throw, and the lead was down to 4 (If this sounds insane, it was insane to watch live). The Blazers failed to score on two consecutive possessions (including two missed layips), but the Wolves missed as well. 4 minutes remaining. Hickson missed a jumper, and Minnesota missed at the other end, but the Blazers couldn't corral a rebound. Minnesota coach Rick Adelman called timeout.
Out of the timeout, the Wolves missed another three, and Aldridge posted up to score at the other end. The Blazers led by 6 with two minutes remaining. After Minnesota missed again, Wesley took a three. SWISH. Suddenly, it's a 9 point lead with 1:57 remaining. After a good defensive possession, Andre Kirilenko hit a long three, and Matthews combined a turnover with a foul. In 10 seconds, the lead dropped from 9 to 4. The Blazers inbounded to a wide-open Hickson, who went for the dunk but was fouled (with no call) by Dante Cunningham. Minnesota immediately dunked at the other end, and that nine point lead was already down to two Blazer fans nationwide groaned out loud. Lillard drove and missed, but Barea threw a pass away with 50 seconds left. Time for a timeout.
The Blazers gave the ball to Aldridge, who nailed a fadeaway over Cunningham. Williams scored for the Wolves, but the refs eventually realized he passed the ball to himself in order to get open, and waved off the bucket. Wesley's two free throws at the other end sealed a hard-fought win and a winning road trip.