Bench buoys Blazers against Timberwolves
By Kerry Eggers, The Sports Xchange
Minnesota 104 Portland 115
PORTLAND, Ore. -- The game was billed as a battle between two of the best power forwards in the NBA -- Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge and Minnesota's Kevin Love.
Aldridge and Love each had his moments, but balance and a strong performance from the bench was the difference in the Trail Blazers' 115-104 victory on Saturday night at the Moda Center.
Aldridge scored 21 points to lead six players scoring in double figures for the Trail Blazers (33-11). Guard Wesley Matthews added 18 points and guard Mo Williams came off the bench with 16 as Blazers reserves outscored their Timberwolves counterparts 34-15.
"They were great tonight," Aldridge said. "They came in and were our big boys tonight."
Guard Kevin Martin bombed in 30 points for Minnesota (21-22), playing the second of back-to-back games after winning 121-120 at Golden State on Friday night. Center Nikola Pekovic had 23 points and 11 rebounds. Love had 15 points and 13 boards for the Timberwolves.
Portland, which entered the game second in the league in 3-point percentage (.392), was only 4 for 16 from beyond the stripe.
"A lot of people say we're one-dimensional," Matthews said. "We shoot 3's, and (they say) that's the only way we can win. We've shown when we don't shoot them well, we can still be a tough team. We still have guys who can attack, who can make free throws, who can get their own shot."
Aldridge made 9 of 21 shots from the field and 3 for 3 from the free-throw line and had six rebounds in 34 minutes. Love was only 4 for 12 from the field but 6 for 6 at the line in 36 minutes.
"It was much ado about nothing," Love said about the pregame hubbub regarding his matchup with Aldridge. "We both didn't have a particularly great game. Other people stepped up on both of our teams, but he came away with the win."
Trailing by eight points at halftime, Minnesota outscored Portland 14-6 to tie the score at 71 early in the third quarter. Martin's 3-pointer gave the Timberwolves a 79-78 lead, but Portland scored the final seven points of the quarter to take an 87-81 advantage into the fourth.
A three-point play by Aldridge started a 7-0 run that extended Portland's edge to 105-88 with 5:29 to play. Minnesota never got closer than 10 points the rest of the way.
"We were right there, we played hard, but this is a tough team to play on a back-to-back," Love said. The Blazers "are very good."
With Matthews, Williams and forward Nicolas Batum all scoring 11 points, Portland took a 65-57 lead into the half. The Blazers controlled play despite 1-of-10 shooting from 3-point range through intermission, owing a 42-22 edge in points in the paint.
The Timberwolves were 6 of 8 from beyond the stripe in the half.
Minnesota took a 28-22 lead, then settled for a 29-27 advantage after one quarter behind Martin's 10 points. The Blazers trailed despite 11 points, five rebounds and three assists by Batum.
Portland outscored Minnesota 16-4 in the first three minutes of the second quarter run to go ahead 43-33. Williams scored 10 points during the run.
The Blazers extended the advantage to 49-37 before the Timberwolves cut the margin to 53-50 with four minutes left before halftime.
NOTES: Portland equaled its win total of last season with 38 games to play. ... The Blazers outscored the Timberwolves 60-46 in the paint. It was Portland's second-highest total of the season. In the first matchup of the teams, a 120-109 Timberwolves win in Minneapolis on Dec. 18, Minnesota outscored Portland 72-34 in the paint. ... Minnesota F Kevin Love got his NBA-high 38th double-double, C Nikola Pekovic his 23rd, Portland C Robin Lopez (15 points, 10 rebounds) his 17th. ... Before the game, Minnesota coach Rick Adelman called Portland "probably the best offensive team in the league." The Blazers entered the night ranked first in scoring (109.3) and free-throw percentage (.824), second in 3-point percentage (.392), third in offensive rebounds (13.1) and assists (24.6), fourth in rebound percentage (.520) and 10th in field-goal percentage (.457).