Tonight's matchup with the Portland Trailblazers mirrored, in a number of ways, the Wolves' loss to the Los Angeles Lakers last week. In that loss to the Lakers, the TWolves dug themselves a big hole in the first quarter and spent the last three playing catch up. They cut the lead to four late in the fourth, but ended up losing by 11. Tonight the Wolves played 2.5 quarters of bad basketball. They started to come back in the third, but the Blazers quickly went on another run to push the lead to 19 points after three quarters. Then, the Wolves put on an incredible fourth quarter in which they outscored the Blazers 40-23, but fell just short.
The Minnesota Timberwolves got off to a bad start. They allowed the Blazers to shoot 55% in the first, while shooting just 31.8% of their own. As expected, Wes Matthews got things going early as he scored 9 of his eventual 22 in the first, while Aldridge added 8 of his 25. The Wolves forced 7 turnovers in the first quarter, but still struggled to guard the perimeter as the Blazers went 3-of-6 from deep.
The second quarter was much the same as Portland continued to go to Matthews (7pts) and Aldridge (6pts). The Wolves didn't seem to interested in playing through these first couple of quarters. The defense was lackluster and the offense was somewhat stagnant. The Wolves did get four points apiece from four different players (Pek, Barea, Shved & Dante) in that second quarter to lead the team. The Wolves' poor shooting continued as the Wolves finished the first half shooting 38.1% from the field and 0-for-6 from deep. The Blazers led by 11 at halftime and the one thing that was keeping the Wolves in the game was the 12 first half turnovers they forced POR in to.
The third quarter was much the same for the Wolves. The Timberwolves' poor shooting continued and even though they forced the Blazers into another 9 third quarter turnovers, they ended the quarter trailing by 19 points; 58-77. Ricky Rubio scored 8 of his 15 in the third and Ridnour added 6 of his 10, while Aldridge added another 7 points and Hickson/Lillard added 6 apiece. The Wolves went on a big run through the first part of the third that found them down just three points (54-57) with 5:10 to play in the third quarter. Portland answered with a HUGE 20-4 run that opened up that big lead to end the third.
Then came quarter number four. I debated turning the game off after that big run found the Blazers up by double-digits, I'm REALLY thankful I didn't. The Wolves put together an incredible fourth quarter that saw them score 40 points on the back of Dante & J.J. Cunningham scored 17 of his 23 points and J.J. added 11 of his 17 and Ricky Rubio dished 10 of his 14 assists in the fourth quarter. The Wolves found themselves down just two points thanks to some incredible plays on both ends of the floor. The Blazers scored 23 points and still shot the ball well in the fourth quarter. They shot 9-14 FG (64.3%) and 2-3 from deep (66.7%). The Wolves, however forced the Blazers into 7 more turnovers and shot just over 70% from the field and 100% (2-2) from deep en-route to that 40-point fourth quarter.
The Wolves had a chance to win it in the closing seconds. They fouled LaMarcus Aldridge following a rebound. He went to the line for two and...missed them both!! The Wolves were down just 2 points at that point and had the ball with 5.9 seconds to play. A three would win it, a two would send us into an OT. They got the ball into Ricky who found Dante at the top of the key. Aldridge came out to contest that forced him to dribble and move up rather than simply catch and shoot, the shot didn't fall and the Wolves walk away losers...once again.
Rick Adelman put it perfectly after tonight's game, saying "I told the team, we can't play 30 minutes in a 48-minute game."
Dante Cunningham finished with a career-high 23pts on a career-high 11 made field goals, also adding 2 rebounds and 3 steals (sixth game of the season he's had a 3-steal game). He shot 11-for-17 from the field in 29 minutes off the bench. J.J. Barea scored 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting and added 3 rebounds and 3 assists in 27 minutes off the bench. His seven made field goals ties a season-high. Ricky Rubio had his best game of the season. He finished with a season-high 15 points and added 2 rebounds, 1 steal and tied a career-high with 14 assists. He also played a season-high 33 minutes.
The Blazers were led by LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews & Damian Lillard. Aldridge finished the night with 25pts, 13reb, 5ast, 1stl and 2blk; Matthews added 22pts, 3reb, 5ast and 1blk, while shooting 4-of-8 from deep. Rookie Damian Lillard contributed 21pts, 4reb, 6ast and 3stls.
The Timberwolves set new season-lows with their 19 defensive rebounds and 29 total rebounds. The Blazers set a new season-high (for a MIN opponent) with 28 turnovers and also shot the second-best percentage of an opponent at 58.6%.
The Wolves will be back in action on Wednesday night vs. the San Antonio Spurs. Until then, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!