The Minnesota Timberwolves nearly pulled off a HUGE comeback win and for a moment I thought we'd have another game like the one in Brooklyn earlier this season, when the Wolves erased a 23-point lead to comeback and win it in the final quarter.
That was nearly the case tonight as the Wolves found themselves down by 22 late in the third quarter. They entered the fourth down by 18 and the fans at Target Center were ready to leave as both of Minnesota's teams were having terrible nights (there were updates on the Vikings game throughout the night, which obviously didn't go so well for Minnesota fans).
Early in the third quarter, Nikola Pekovic went to the bench and was soon escorted by head trainer Gregg Farnam to the locker room. Leaving Wolves fans in utter disbelief as we'd found out just a few hours earlier that Kevin Love would likely miss the next 4-6 weeks with a broken hand. Pekovic eventually returned courtside and was riding an exercise bike behind the bench. He was listed as questionable with a left hip strain, though he would not return.
The Wolves were without Pek who played just 22 minutes on the night and yet still managed 21pts, 15reb & 2blks. Adelman went with Luke Ridnour, J.J. Barea, Andrei Kirilenko, Derrick Williams and Dante Cunningham in the fourth quarter. I was just hoping the last twelve minutes would go by quickly and we could take yet another humiliating loss. Instead, Derrick Williams led a fourth quarter charge in which he scored all 18 of his points to cut the lead to just 2 at one point. The Wolves made an improbable comeback despite the insanely hot-shooting Portland Trailblazer.
I'm about as tired of these 'moral victories' as every other Wolves fan out there, but the fact that the Wolves were able to put together that great fourth quarter AND managed to cut the lead down and give themselves a chance to win all while the Blazers were shooting over 60% from deep! There was a stretch in the fourth quarter that spanned some 6+ minutes where the Blazers didn't make a field goal, but Portland still finished the night shooting 43% from the field and 66.7% (on 24 attempts) from deep!
Had those 16 made threes from Portland been all two-pointers, this would've been a completely different game! That's 16 less points! That's a completely different ball game. Part of the blame falls on the Wolves' perimeter defense, but if you watch this one again, the Wolves were consistently with a hand in their faces, challenging shots, but they just made some great shots (especially Wes Matthews).
Let's take a look at tonight's top performers...
Nikola Pekovic played limited minutes, however in the words of Jim Peterson, he was making defenders look like children out there. He imposed his will all night long and LaMarcus Aldridge & J.J. Hickson didn't have a chance of even slowing him down. Derrick Williams was the catalyst to a late run, without him we'd be talking about how the Wolves had another night like Wednesday in Utah. Cunningham was still probably the Wolves' best player tonight. He hit a few mid-range shots, grabbed 12 boards and was extremely active on the defensive end, including a big block on J.J. Hickson that gave the Wolves another chance to grab the lead (which they couldn't). Luke Ridnour also added 15pts (8 in the fourth quarter), 2reb, 4ast, 1stl; Kirilenko had 15pts, 7reb, 2ast, 1stl and Barea added 14pts, 3reb, 7ast off the bench.
The Blazers' backcourt and swingman absolutely dominated the Wolves tonight. When the Wolves used to face the Blazers, the concern was always with containing LaMarcus Aldridge. Now, the concerns become with dealing with their great backcourt (Lillard & Matthews) as well as someone who nearly became a Wolf--Nicolas Batum. The common theme throughout this Blazer squad was the ease of draining threes--a luxury the Wolves unfortunately don't possess. A fully healthy starting five for the whole season would be nice too!
MISC. STATS: Cunningham tied season-highs in offensive rebounds (4), defensive rebounds (8) and blocks (3), he also set new season-highs with 13 field goal attempts, 12 rebounds and 42 minutes......Luke Ridnour tied season-highs with his 7 made free throws and 8 free throw attempts.......Derrick Williams' 2 steals ties a season-high......
KEY STATS: Portland's 16 made threes on 66.7% efficiency is the key to this Blazer victory. Without that dominant three-point shooting that with everyone showing off their range, this is a very different ball game. The Wolves had a +13 advantage on the boards, +22 in points in the paint, +7 in fast break points and a +20 in bench production, but still lost. Tonight's loss is tough to take, here's hoping I never have to talk about a Wolves opponent scorching the net like Portland did tonight.
MISC. STATS: Minnesota's 88.9% from the free throw line ties a season-high, their 19 offensive rebounds also ties the second-best mark of the season......Minnesota's 13 fouls ties the second-lowest numbers of the season.......The Blazers' 16 made threes and 66.7% three-point shooting are both season-highs for a TWolves opponent, their 92.3% from the line is the second-best night at the line for a Wolves opponent this season.......Portland's 3 fast break points and 22 points in the paint are season-lows for a TWolves opponent and their three steals ties the second-lowest mark on the year.......
That's all for now, the Wolves are back in action on Tuesday night vs. the Atlanta Hawks, that one will tip from the Target Center at 7pmCT--expect a full gameday preview of that one before then, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!