GameDay LIVE Blog: Wolves vs. Blazers | Dec. 18, 2013

GameDay LIVE Blog: Wolves vs. Blazers | Dec. 18, 2013

Final: Ballgame. The Wolves beat the Blazers 120-109 here at Target Center behind Pek's 30, Love's 29 and K-Mart's 22. More to come on so stay tuned all night. MIN 120, POR 109

Q4 49.7: This is getting silly. Lillard with 36, just hit another 3. Meanwhile, the Blazers just picked four offensive rebounds on a single possession and eventually got a baseline jumper from Batum. MIN 114, POR 106

Q4 2:46: Here we go, folks. We're down to 2:46 left and the Wolves are still up 14. Pek has been a monster tonight. He's 14-of-19 with 30 points and nine rebounds. Love is at 29 points and 15 boards and nine assists. Damian Lillard is incredible. He's got 33 points, six assists and six boards. He's been on fire this half, scoring 23 of his 33 points. MIN 113, POR 99

Q4 6:44 Nice few minutes there for Pek, who capped off that last possession with a tip-in that put the Wolves back up 19. One note, the Wolves had 54 points in the paint during the first half. That's the most points in the paint by any NBA team in a half since the Vancouver Grizzlies put up 54 against Denver on March 21, 1997. MIN 109, POR 90

Q4 8:35: We've got 8:35 left and the Wolves are holding on. They've got a 18-point lead at this point, and Love is getting more room to operate than he did right out of halftime. He's also one assists shy of a triple-double, and he had an opportunity for that assist on a missed K-Mart 3-pointer moments ago. He's on the bench for the time being having already played 35 minutes tonight, but he'll be back soon. MIN 105, POR 87

End Q3: The Wolves sustained a monster run by the Blazers. Portland chopped Minnesota's once-32 point lead to 10, but the Wolves answered back with some Love and Barea. Barea hit back-to-back 3s at the end of the third. He's got 10, while Love has 24 points, 14 boards and nine assists and Pek has 24 points and six assists. K-Mart has 18 points. Lillard went nuts in the third--he scored 17 of his 27 points that quarter. MIN 98, POR 78

Q3 4:01: Portland is taking Love out of this game by smothering him in their defensive sets. He hasn't had much time to touch the ball this quarter, forcing the rest of the Wolves to counter. It's been a tough road. Portland has a 25-11 edge this quarter, led by 12 from Lillard. MIN 80, POR 68

Q3 6:30: The Blazers opened up this quarter on a 12-3 run and chipped into this lead. It's important the Wolves sustain this run and get a couple stops here. Pek has been an important part of that. He's got a couple baskets here of late and has keep the Wolves up 19. MIN 78, POR 59

Halftime: Well that was quite a first half. Minnesota rolls into halftime up 69-43 after a dominant display against the West's top team. Minnesota shot 58.8 percent from the field, dominated the paint 54-22 while winning second chance points 11-2 and fast-break points 18-5. They've been so active. It's the type of game you need to have to win in the NBA every night. If the Wolves can play with this type of aggression every day, they'll be a tough team to beat. By the way, Love has 16 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists in the first half. Pek has 17 points, Martin has 11 and Rubio has four points, five assists and five boards. MIN 69, POR 43

Q2 3:57: This is the Wolves team we've waited for all year. They're aggressive on every play, they're crashing the boards, they're moving the ball and they're closing off all lanes to the hoop. They're doing it against the team with the best record in the West. Can they sustain this all game? Can they continue this play consistently moving forward? If they can, watch out. MIN 62, POR 33

Q2 8:15: Did anyone see this start coming? Minnesota is shooting out of its mind right now, hitting 64 percent of its shots. Shved has come alive here, first with a nice steal and alley-oop feed for Dante Cunningham (who is moving well on his ankle tonight) and next a slam off a Barea feed heading into this timeout. The Wolves are up 23 and holding the Blazers in check. Can they keep it going? Lots of momentum for Minnesota right now. MIN 51, POR 28

Q2 11:24: The Wolves had two quick baskets and 1 early on here in the first 36 seconds of the quarter, forcing the Blazers to call a timeout. Great energy and flow so far for the Wolves. MIN 36, POR 22

End Q1: Nice quarter for the Wolves, who shot 56 percent and put 31 points up while holding the Blazers, who haven't scored fewer than 105 points this month, to 22 points on 39.1 percent shooting. Love had a monster quarter with six points, nine boards and five assists. K-Mart had nine and Pek had eight. For the Blazers, Batum has nine, Matthews has five and Aldridge has four. MIN 31, POR 22

Q1 2:48: The Wolves are having a hard time handling Batum early on here, he's got nine poitns on 3-of-5 shooting. But the Blazers are having trouble with Kevin Love, too. He's got six points, eight boards and five assists in 10 minutes. Nice start.... MIN 28, POR 20

Q1 5:58: Two great feeds from Wolves players to Kevin Martin put the Wolves up five midway through the first. The first was from Kevin Love who, at the 3-point line just above the break, found Martin cutting baseline for two. Later, Rubio picked up a steal and fed a bounce pass to Martin who threw down on the fast break. Nice start for Minnesota shooting 53.8 percent while holding this high-octane Blazers team to 36.4 percent shooting. MIN 16, POR 11


PG-Ricky Rubio, SG-Kevin Martin, SF-Corey Brewer, PF-Kevin Love, C-Nikola Pekovic

Blazers: PG-Damian Lillard, SG-Wes Matthews, SF-Nicolas Batum, PF-LaMarcus Aldridge, C-Robin Lopez

Pregame 6:10 PM: Blazers coach Terry Stotts was asked if LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Love were the two best power forwards in the game right now, and he agreed with that assessment before saying he though Aldridge was the best power forward in the league--the reason being he likes what Aldridge does for his team.

So naturally, Rick Adelman was asked the same thing. And naturally, he said....

"Well he's going to say that," Adelman said, laughing. "[I say] Kevin Love is the best power forward. Who is the tiebreaker?"

In all seriousness, Love and Aldridge are both putting up incredible numbers and are, statistically the best at their positions this year. The tiebreaker will be how their teammates play around them tonight. The Blazers have one of the best offenses in the league—they can shoot the 3, they rack up assists at a high clip and they lead the league in points per game.

For the Wolves, they key will be contesting perimeter shots.

"That's what we talked about all year long is how we're going to defend people," Adelman said. "This is a little bit different....They're a great outside shooting team. The best in the league. You have to defend the 3-point shooters. You have to. But you have some guys that can break you down. This is a team that is in the top 5 in every category offensively in the league. It's going to be a challenge for us to see how we respond to it."

Some good news for the Wolves: Both Dante Cunningham and Kevin Martin told Rick Adelman pregame that they're feeling better. Both sound like they could play tonight.

"As far as I know, both think they can go," Adelman said. "We'll see how they feel when the game starts."

Pregame 2:30 PM: Welcome to Target Center, where the Wolves will face the Portland Trail Blazers for the first time this season. Portland leads the Western Conference at 22-4, and above all else they’ve been able to do something that is often easier said than done: Beat teams they’re supposed to beat. The Blazers are 16-0 against teams with sub-.500 records this season, and they’re 6-4 against teams with winning records. Tonight the Wolves come in below .500, but these two teams were viewed this preseason as being two squad vying for the final two playoff positions come spring.

Tonight, we’ll get a chance to see where these two squads match up head-to-head. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on Fox Sports North and 830 WCCO-AM.

Portland is incredibly talented in its starting five—that’s nothing new. The Blazers were solid in their starting lineup last year thanks to the surprise emergence of rookie point guard Damian Lillard teaming with All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge and strong wing performers Nicolas Batum and Wes Matthews. But the bench was not up to par, and as a result the Blazers struggled. They won 33 games and missed the playoffs.

This year, Portland brought in Robin Lopez to replace J.J. Hickson as its starting center, then brought in Mo Williams and Thomas Robinson, among others, to secure bench production. The results have been terrific. The Blazers already have 22 wins, and they’ve taken care of business away from home as well as at the Moda Center. The Blazers are 12-2 away from Portland already this year after going 11-30 on the road a year ago.

“They’re a great team,” guard J.J. Barea said. “They’re shooting the ball great. They’re moving, playing as a team. They’re moving the ball great—great spacing. They’re on a roll right now, and we have to play our best game tonight.”

Portland is currently on a five-game winning streak, highlighted by back-to-back game-winning shots by Lillard in Detroit and Cleveland, and they also have an 11-game winning streak under their belt from earlier this year. Much of their success is based on their balance. They’re first in the league in points per game (108.3), fourth in assists per game (23.7) and fourth in boards per game (46.0). They’re No. 1 in the league in 3-point percentage at 41.5 percent after shooting 35.3 percent a year ago.

That opens up space for LaMarcus Aldridge to work his magic around the basket and in his midrange game, and he’s taken advantage of it. His numbers (23.6 ppg, 11.0 rpg) are the closest figures at the power forward position to Kevin Love this season, by the sound of things from the Blazers’ locker room they attribute Aldridge’s ability to roam and dominate to the ability Lopez presents doing all the little things around the basket.

What you get is a Blazers team that is well-rounded, confident and on a roll. The Wolves are hoping put a dent in that demeanor tonight.

“They fight all the way through—we can see they’ve been battling and they get the victory,” Ricky Rubio said. “That’s what we need to tonight. It’s going to be a long game, so we just have to go out there and win the game.”

One guy to watch tonight is Wes Matthews at shooting guard. Matthews is averaging 16.2 points per game this year to go along with 50.9 percent shooting from the field and 45.6 percent shooting 3-point range. All three of those are career highs, as are his field goals made per game (5.7) and 3-pointers made per game (2.6). But he’s always played well in his career against the Wolves.

In 11 games against Minnesota, he’s scored 30 points twice and at least 20 points seven times. He’s shot at least 50 percent from the field eight times against Minnesota (including 70.6 percent in a 30-point effort on Nov. 23, 2012), and he’s shot 50 percent or better from 3 in eight different outings (including 5-of-6 on Nov. 23, 2012 and 7-of-10 on Jan. 7, 2011). Long story short, Matthews is a guy who plays exceptionally well against the Wolves. But Minnesota has historically lacked productive wing defenders, and this year they do have both Corey Brewer and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute on the roster. We’ll see if they get matched on him or Nicolas Batum, and if so how much it helps slow Matthews down.

Here are a few game notes for tonight:

  • The Wolves trail in the all-time series 26-68, and are 15-31 at home. The Wolves have lost the last five games in the series, and 21 of the last 23, including 10 of the last 11 at Target Center.

  • Wolves Notes

  • Kevin Love ranks 1st in the NBA in rebounding (13.6 rpg) and 4th in scoring (25.0 ppg). He has a league-leading 22 double-doubles this year. Love is averaging 30.2 points in the last five games.

  • Love has scored at least 30 points or pulled down 10 or more rebounds in all 24 games he's played this season. It’s the longest such streak to begin a season since Bill Walton registered 30 points or 10 rebounds in each of his first 34 games of the 1976-77 season for Portland.

  • Nikola Pekovic is averaging 18.8 points on 51.4% shooting (40-76) and 9.0 rpg in the last 10 games. Pekovic has 11 double-doubles this season, including six in the last 10 games.

  • Love and Pekovic have grabbed an offensive rebound in 99 consecutive games -- the longest active streak in the NBA, and the 3rd longest streak since 2008-09 (Howard 121, Aldridge 117).

  • Ricky Rubio is averaging 13.8 ppg in the last five games. The Wolves are 9-3 when he scores 10+ points. Rubio ranks 2nd in the NBA in steals at 2.88 per game and 5th in assists with 8.0 apg.

  • Rubio and Corey Brewer have combined for 114 steals this season -- the top duo in the NBA (John Wall and Trevor Ariza are 2nd with 84).

  • J.J. Barea recorded his first double-double of the season on Monday night in Boston with 10 points and 11 assists to lead Minnesota’s bench unit to its highest scoring outing of the season (45 points). Over his last five games, Barea has recorded a 6.75 assist-to-turnover (27-4) ratio.

  • The Wolves rank 2nd in the NBA in steals with 9.32 spg and 4th in free throw percentage at 79.9%. The Wolves rank 3rd in the league in free throw attempts with 27.0 per game. They are allowing their opponents an average of just 17.4 FTAs per game -- the fewest in the league.

  • Blazers Notes

  • Portland enters tonight's game with an NBA-best 22-4 record, tied for the 2nd best record after 26 games in team history (23-3 in 1990-91, 22-4 in 1977-78). The Blazers have an NBA-best 12-2 road record and have already surpassed last year's road win total of 11.

  • The Blazers rank 1st in the NBA in scoring (108.3 ppg), free-throw percentage (81.8%) and 3-point field goal percentage ( 41.5%), and 4th in rebounds (46.0 rpg) and assists (23.69 apg).

  • Portland has had the same starting lineup (Batum, Aldridge, Lopez, Matthews, Lillard) for every game this season -- the only team in the league with that distinction this season.

  • LaMarcus Aldridge, is averaging 26.0 points, on 52.3% (44-for-84) shooting, and 17.0 rebounds over the last four games.

  • Damian Lillard hit the game-winning shot in the closing seconds of the last two games for Portland -- he's just the fourth player in the last 15 years to hit the go-ahead shot with less than two seconds to play in the fourth quarter or overtime in consecutive games.

  • For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter.