GameDay LIVE Blog: Wolves vs. Blazers | Feb. 8, 2014
Final: That's a wrap, folks. The Wolves played gutsy basketball tonight, but they had 60 points per game sitting on the bench in street clothes as Love, Pek and Martin didn't play. The Blazers ultimately took advantage in the fourth and won 117-108. Rubio led the way with 25 points and nine boards, while Brewer had 26 points, Cunningham had 14 and Muhammad had 12. For the Blazers, Aldridge had 26, Matthews had 21, McCollum had 19, Batum had 15 and Lillard had 14. More to come so stay tuned to Timberwolves.com. POR 117, MIN 110
Q4 1:25: Wesley Matthews has been killer this quarter. He's hitting his 3s when it matters, and he's up to 18 on the night. Matthews always has some of his best games against the Wolves for some reason. Tonight is not there statistically, but his impact is really felt. POR 108, MIN 96
Q4 3:29: The Wolves are trying to keep this one close after Portland went on a 13-1 run. Budinger hit a 3-pointer that Lillard answered with a 3 of his own, but Brewer just scores and drew the foul. He's headed to the line with a chance to cut this lead to five. POR 101, MIN 85
Q4 6:57: Shabazz just got out in transition and got the layup to go, but he was called for an offensive foul. Tough call for the Wolves, especially because the Blazers just got a 3-pointer from Wesley Matthews that put them up five. POR 92, MIN 87
Q4 8:07: We're in for a good finish tonight, folks. Wolves and Blazers tied with eight minutes to play. Adelman went with Barea, Hummel, Muhammad, Brewer and Turiaf to start the quarter and it looks like he's sticking with them for the time being. MIN 87, POR 87
End Q3: Great game so far for Ricky Rubio, who has 24 points on 8-of-16 shooting and is a perfect 8-for-8 from the free-throw line. He hit a huge 3-pointer that put the Wolves up 82-75, but the Blazers went on an 8-1 run to end the quarter and tied this thing up at 83 heading into the fourth. This is a telling 12 minutes for Minnesota. They don't have three regulars, but they are playing gritty. Do they have enough to hang tough? In OKC on Wednesday, they were missing Love, Pek and Brewer, and they kept it close until the fourth. That's when the Thunder took over. The final five minutes are the ones that count in every game, and this undermanned Wolves squad will need to play sound D in order to stay in this until the end. MIN 83, POR 83
Q3 3:07: Huge swing in momentum here. The Wolves were keeping this thing close and even grabbed a one-point lead with about 3:30 to play in the quarter when Budinger hit Brewer leaking out on the fast break. Brewer drew a clear path foul from McCollum, hit 1-of-2 at the line, then Budinger hit a major 3 from the wing. That's a four-point possession, and the Wolves are up 77-72. Meanwhile, in the timeout the inflatable mascots are at center court dancing. It is fantastic, and I can tell you the Wolves' Digital Media Crew is going nuts. Also, Goldy is doing some work dancing in the corner. Fantastic. MIN 77, POR 72
Halftime: The Wolves are trailing 55-54 at the break thanks to a nice push at the end of the second that cut this once 11-point lead to 1. Nice half for Rubio who put up 14 points and drew a couple nice charges, and a huge shout to Shabazz Muhammad for nine points in the first half. The Wolves are shooting 43.8 percent, while the Blazers are shooting 47.7 percent. McCollum has 13, Batum has 11 and Aldridge has 10. POR 55, MIN 54
Q2 2:02: A couple really nice aggressive moves by Cunningham getting to the basket. I've said it before but I really love seeing him use his athleticism to get to the basket instead of exclusively shooting those mid-range jumpers. He's got seven tonight, four of which came in the last minute. His latest basket puts the Wolves within one at 49-48 with 2:02 left in the half. POR 49, MIN 48
Q2 5:29: Shabazz is up to nine points after a nice basket in the paint a second ago. Brewer also just threw down, and the Wolves cut this once 11-point deficit down to five with 5:29 to play in the 2nd. Rubio still leads the team with 11, but Shabazz's nine is second on the team and is a career-high. POR 44, MIN 39
Q2 6:36: The #FreeShabazz hashtag has to be trending, doesn't it? He's got seven points on 3-of-4 shooting, and he just drew contact, got the friendly roll and got the foul. Nice to see him getting some play and taking advantage of it. POR 41, MIN 35
Q2 9:39: For all the #FreeShabazz tweeters out there, we have a Shabazz Muhammad sighting here in the second quarter. He started hte frame with Barea, Shved, Mbah a Moute and Gorgui, and he's staying out there after this first timeout. He just scored on his last two possessions, and he helped cut this lead to six. POR 35, MIN 29
End Q1: Rubio drew another offensive foul, this time on C.J. McCollum. Love seeing that aggressiveness from him on the defensive end. It creates turnovers and sets the tone for the rest of the team defensively. But the Wolves didn't capitalize on that turnover, and the Blazers went on an 8-0 run to end the quarter. The Wolves need to keep the defensive intensity up, hit their free throws (4-of-8 right now) and start getting into an offensive flow. They're 9-of-24 from the field through one quarter. POR 28, MIN 23
Q1 2:50: One guy to watch tonight is C.J. McCollum, the rookie from Lehigh who got a ton of looks from lottery teams during the draft workouts last year. When we did our research, we projected Victor Oladipo, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Ben McLemore and McCollum as the top SGs on the board, though McCollum's size made him more of a combo guard. That was ultimately the thinking by the Wolves' front office as they opted to trade their ninth pick for the 14th, which ended up being Shabazz Muhammad. McCollumn went to the Blazers 10th overall. This is the first time since draft workouts that we're seeing McCollum live here in town. We'll keep an eye on him tonight. MIN 22, POR 20
Q1 5:57: The Wolves are coming out extremely aggressive, which is important because they are playing without three starters tonight. Ronny Turiaf grabbed an offensive board off a missed free throw, and on the Blazers' next possession Rubio drew a charge on Damian Lillard that not only forced the turnover but also gave Lillard his second foul early on here. But the Wolves are shooting 5-of-14 and are 2-of-5 from the line. If they're going to compete tonight, they're going to need to get to the line and hit their free throws. MIN 15, POR 14
Blazers: PG-Damian Lillard, SG-Wesley Matthews, SF-Nicolas Batum, PF-LaMarcus Aldridge, C-Robin Lopez
Wolves: PG-Ricky Rubio, SG-Chase Budinger, SF-Corey Brewer, PF-Dante Cunningham, C-Ronny Turiaf
PREGAME 6:50 PM: The bad news keeps coming tonight for the Timberwolves. Forward Kevin Love will not play tonight because of a left quad contusion suffered last night in New Orleans. He said pregame it was the sorest part of his body (which says a lot given the week-long, in-game punishment his body’s received) after catching a knee from Greg Stiemsma.
Love was a late scratch just before gametime. The news came just minutes after the Timberwolves announced Kevin Martin is out indefinitely with a broken left hand. That puts the Wolves three starters down as Nikola Pekovic is still out with bursitis in his right ankle.
For Love, who fought through a physically-strenuous game against the Lakers on Tuesday and missed Wednesday’s game against Oklahoma City, it’s been a week in which he’s tried to give it a go as much as he can but his body continues to handle opposing teams’ best shots.
“Yeah, I mean I keep telling Pek it’s his fault,” Love joked pregame on Saturday. “With him out I’ve been taking a little bit of a beating, but that’s just the way it goes sometimes. Just getting to the free throw line, just doing the dirty work, doing whatever the team needs. But you know, we just need to get healthy, stay healthy and just continue to fight.”
Love said it’s a process of trying to fight through it, but the Wolves’ training staff as a whole must have deemed tonight where sitting out is necessary. Look for Chase Budinger to start at the 2-guard spot, Dante Cunningham at power forward and Ronny Turiaf at center. Ricky Rubio and Corey Brewer will be in their normal starting spots.
PREGAME 6:30 PM:The Timberwolves announced just before pregame on Saturday night that shooting guard Kevin Martin suffered a broken left thumb and will be sidelined indefinitely. The release said an update will be provided at an appropriate time.
Martin took an X-ray this morning at TRIA Orthopedics in Bloomington, which revealed a non-displaced fracture of the distal phalanx in his left thumb. The injury happened in the final minutes of last night’s 98-91 loss to the Pelicans in New Orleans.
This definitely shakes up the Wolves’ rotation on the wing, which had been stable all year long. Martin, who is in his first season with the Timberwolves, has appeared in 48 of the team’s 50 games and is averaging 19.0 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 32.3 minutes per game.
Not only has he been durable to date, but he’s also been an addition to this back court that this franchise hasn’t traditionally had. Martin, a 6-foot-7 off guard, has provided length and a scoring touch both inside and on the perimeter this season. Minnesota hasn’t always had that luxury, often in recent years foregoing traditional shooting guard play to patch over injuries or lack of depth. Last season, Minnesota started point guard Luke Ridnour at shooting guard alongside Ricky Rubio for much of the year. Martin’s presence gives the Timberwolves a more standard look at the 2 spot.
In Martin’s absence, the Wolves have a few options in their rotation. Among players who could increase minutes are Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Chase Budinger, Alexey Shved, Robbie Hummel and Shabazz Muhammad. Mbah a Moute and Budinger are likely the primary beneficiaries and can bolster the Wolves’ lineup in different ways—Mbah a Moute is more of a defensive presence, while Budinger provides more of an offensive spark.
Shved’s minutes have fluctuated based on need and circumstance this year, while Hummel has been a healthy scratch during the Wolves’ healthier stretches over the last month but also started two games earlier this year. Muhammad’s minutes have been sparse but he did put together a strong stretch of play over four games in the D-League earlier this season.
PREGAME 3:30 PM: Welcome to Target Center, folks, as we get set for tonight’s Timberwolves matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers. The Wolves are in the midst of a difficult stretch of play both by volume and quality standards—between Feb. 1 and the All-Star Break on Feb. 12, the Wolves will play seven games, including two sets of back-to-backs in geographically-distant cities, against four teams currently in their respective playoff hunt. And of all those games, tonight might be the toughest. Minnesota played an ESPN game at 8:30 PM CT in New Orleans last night, returned about 3 a.m. this morning and have the third best team in the West in town tonight.
That’s not to make any excuses here, because the Blazers are in the tail-end of a back-to-back, too. They lost 118-113 in overtime last night against the physical Indiana Pacers, and they’re currently in a stretch of four losses in their last six games. But after the Wolves lost to the Pelicans 98-91 last night and dropped two games under .500, it makes stealing games like this at home an absolute necessity. If Minnesota loses tonight, they will drop three games under .500 with two games to play before All-Star Weekend. The loss last night put Minnesota 5 ½ games back of Dallas in the West, so keeping themselves afloat right now is essential. It won’t be easy, but Minnesota did beat the Blazers here earlier this year. They’ll need another performance like that tonight.
If you’re playing the numbers game, Dallas is currently on pace for 48 wins in that eighth spot.
Last night, it was the team’s play in the fourth that let New Orleans come back—the Timberwolves led by 10 after three. The Blazers average the second-most fourth quarter points per game in the league, and a big reason why they’re sitting 35-15 is their clutch play led by Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge. Suffice it to say the Wolves can’t expect to replicate their fourth quarter effort tonight and walk out of here victorious.
“We came out in the fourth quarter and we didn’t play together at either end,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said last night. “[The Pelicans] got some momentum going and I just thought our decision making offensively wasn’t very good. I don’t think we played well together, everyone was trying to do it for themselves. We were 10 up, they cut it to five and we go back up nine and then they came flying back at us. We have to find a way to trust each other better than that.”
So here we go. The Blazers’ All-Star duo of Aldridge and Lillard are a treat to watch, and clearly the Wolves have that same type of must-see talent in Kevin Love. This is the third of four meetings this year, the season series is tied 1-1 with one more game on Feb. 23 coming up.
Much more to come as we get set for tipoff, so stay tuned. We'll have pregame news/notes leading up to 7 p.m., and you can follow along right here for in-game analysis/updates all night long. Tonight's game is on Fox Sports North and 830 WCCO-AM.
Here are a few notes for tonight's game:
Trail Blazers Notes