The Minnesota Timberwolves have now lost five consecutive games after dropping a 94-109 loss to the Portland Trailblazers on Saturday night.
The Timberwolves came into tonight's game as the inferior opponent and that was thanks to one key fact: the Wolves had just nine healthy players! NINE! No Kevin Love. No Nikola Pekovic. No Andrei Kirilenko. No Brandon Roy. No Malcolm Lee. And no Chase Budinger. You can check our injury report for recent updates on AK, Pek & Roy.
The Wolves started Ricky Rubio, Luke Ridnour, Mickael Gelabale, Derrick Williams and Greg Stiemsma--and brought J.J. Barea, Alexey Shved, Dante Cunningham and Chris Johnson off the bench.
I think we all knew the Wolves probably wouldn't win this one. I instead was looking for a few things in this game. The first was that the Wolves would be able to slow down the Blazer backcourt. Damian Lillard & Wesley Matthews absolutely torched Minnesota in the previous three meetings this season. Matthews got in foul trouble early and had to sit for long stretches in this one, however Lillard was a different story. Lillard went 9-for-18 from the field and finished with 24 points.
By the third quarter the Blazers found themselves up by 18 on on their way to their 27th win of the season. But the Blazers clearly aren't a team that knows how to close out games and the Wolves are the kind of team that doesn't stop fighting. Midway through the fourth the Wolves found themselves down just 8 points, which forced Terry Stotts to bring his starting unit (minus Matthews--and instead Maynor) back to the floor to close this one out. They did and the Wolves ended up dropping yet another.
While there aren't any moral victories in the NBA, you can't be too upset about this loss. You can be mad about the injuries and thus the Wolves' bad luck this season, but you can't fault the nine healthy players or Rick and his coaching staff. They've all remained competitive in another terrible season in Minnesota.
Let's take a look at tonight's top performers...
Williams continued his stellar play with another 20-point night. He struggled shooting the ball from deep, but was impressive taking it inside against Hickson & Aldridge. His nine field goals and 40 minutes played both tie season-highs, while his 20 field goal attempts ties a career-high.
Luke Ridnour also continues his recent hot streak. He's been scoring very well these past few games--especially from the mid-range. At one point in the fourth quarter he scored three straight baskets and made the D look completely silly on those consecutive possessions.
Dante Cunningham came off the bench and had a solid game against his former team, 11 of his 16 came in the second half as he looked to keep the Wolves competitive down the stretch.
The Wolves didn't let Wes Matthews go off for another big night. But they did little to stop Lillard, J.J. & LA. Damian came into the night averaging 23 points a game against the Wolves this season. He easily dumped in 24 against Minnesota this time out. With no Nikola Pekovic or Andrei Kirilenko, the Blazers had their way in the paint. Hickson! J.J. Hickson! Went off for 18 & 16 while no one could stop LA as he added another 17.
MISC. PLAYER STATS: J.J. Barea's 2 steals ties a season-high. Dante Cunningham went 4-of-6 from the line. His four makes is a new season-high, while his 6 attempts ties a career-high. Ricky Rubio tied season-highs in defensive rebounds (7) and total rebounds (9), those 9 rebounds also ties a career-high. Alexey Shved's 2 offensive rebounds ties a season-high and Greg Stiemsma set a new season-high with his 4 offensive rebounds.
KEY TEAM STATS: It comes as no shock that the Wolves didn't shoot the ball well or that they were out-rebounded by a +8, considering they are without their three top rebounders (Love, Pek & AK). The Wolves did have a good night in transition with those 20 points the second-best numbers of the season. The Wolves also did an excellent job taking care of the basketball, finishing with a season-low 8 turnovers.
MISC. TEAM STATS: The Wolves tied a season-low with their 1 made three and shot the second-lowest percentage from deep at 8.3% on the year. The Blazers tied the second-best marks of the season for a Wolves opponent in three categories: offensive rebounds (17), assists (32) and personal fouls (30).
The Wolves will be back in action as they take on the defending champion Miami Heat back at the Target Center on Monday. Thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!