Down as much as 18-points in the first half, the Portland Trail Blazers (38-18) were lost, helpless and completely submissive to the Minnestoa Timberwolves (27-29) who were allowed to do anything they pleased. As the Wolves’ lead grew, the Blazers and the Moda Center were obviously frustrated and had nothing going for them. A fire was lit under the Blazers during halftime and they looked like a totally different team: every single member in a white jersey had a huge part in holding their ground, led by Thomas Robinson, Victor Claver and Will Barton (?!?) and the Blazers ran away in the fourth quarter to win 108-97.
Not much to say about the first half in general; the Wolves were up 18-9 in a blink of an eye and Kevin Love was 3-3 from the court before Portland had to take their first timeout. The Blazers paid too much attention to Ricky Rubio and forgot that Love is currently on a scoring tear and notched his first career triple-double last night. Minnesota was shooting 89% from the floor and scored 37 points in twelve minutes. They had calls going their way, the Blazers fought the shot clock and had to play keep-up right from opening tip as they were down by nine.
Things got bad to worse. The Blazers were forced to go small and slid Claver at center, a terribly small lineup with no real rebounding and the Wolves feasted on second chance points. The Wolves ride a 10-2 run to build a 41-28 lead while on the other end the Blazers were out of sync (even rookie Gorgui Dieng steps to the free throw line and banks in two while he’s a 38% free throw shooter). One possession was a blocked shot by Robin Lopez who found Mo Williams on the fast break. He finds Wesley Matthews in the corner for an open three but it hits iron, the rebound bounced into Nicolas Batum’s hands, and he steps behind the elbow three for his own but it’s short as well. The offensive rebound falls into Love’s hands but his outlet pass is tipped by Lopez, but it came back to Love who threw a dart cross-court to Brewer, who in turn throws an alley-oop layup to a cutting Chase Budinger. GRRR. After that, the Blazers found some their shots suddenly to fall and go on a 13-4 run to close the half and cut the Wolves’ lead to just eight. Portland was blessed to be down only single digits after all that Minnesota had everything going their way.
The Moda Center finally woke up when Lillard connected for three to cut the lead to just one, but momentum started to point in Minnesota’s favor when JJ Barea hit one of his own and the lead was back to six. Lillard and Batum would nail threes of their own and the Blazers took a one-point lead for the first time since it was 4-2 in the opening seconds of the first. Portland would’ve done more damage had it not been for turnovers, but the shooting percentages were swing the other way, Minnesota would suddenly go cold at the wrong time when Portland started to get hot and the offense clicking. The entire second half was all about Mr. Thomas Robinson, who started the second at power forward and bullied Love, all while he’s swallowing rebounds, and in one of the highlights of the night (and the season), he chases down Brewer who was going to pack it in and sends the ball the other way on a huge block. In transition, Will Barton slams his own dunk off an alley-oop and Twitterverse in Portland explodes.
Minnesota’s shooting percentage continued to slide, Robinson and Claver took turns choking Love on defense and the Blazers steadily climbed from nine, to 12 and the Wolves waived the white flag early and succumbed to another loss against the Blazers.
Who Was Hot
- Thomas Robinson: His best performance as a professional and his block on Brewer will live in highlight mixtapes on YouTube forever. Along with his 14 points, he snags a new career-high 18 rebounds and two blocks in 33 minutes, while winning over the Moda Center crowd like Lopez did the previous game.
- Damian Lillard: Game-high 32 points, five assists all while playing with five fouls. He was clearly frustrated beyond imagination in the first half at times coming close to picking up a handful of technicals for the way the Wolves were so physical. He did however got to the line plenty of times to make up for the frustration.
- Nicolas Batum: After fighting the flu the last game against the Jazz and needing two IVs at halftime, Batum was feeling better enough for 22 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. He started the game with five quick points but as usual, he faded away into the background up until the fourth quarter when he connected for a couple big threes.
- Shooting percentage: Portland 48% to 39% by the Wolves
- Three-pointers: 13-28 for the Blazers to just nine makes on the other end
- Free throws: 15-16 for Portland against 14-20 for Minnesota
- Blocks: Portland won 7-2, three by Batum and two by Robinson alone
Who Was Not
- Dorell Wright started again in place of LaMarcus Aldridge at power forward but couldn’t keep up with Kevin Love in terms of speed, size and shooting ability to keep Portland above water. He only played seven whole minutes and made one three-pointer.
Highlight of the Night
Thomas Robinson will be haunting Corey Brewer’s dreams tonight.
A solid win tonight that no doubt will bring this team even closer together as a unit. This kind of game will hopefully be talked about later on as a major turning point in the season. A day of rest is welcoming tomorrow before they face another divisional foe the Denver Nuggets on the road on Tuesday.