GameDay LIVE Blog: Wolves at Blazers | Feb. 23, 2014
Final: That's a wrap from Portland, where the Wolves fell 108-97 to the Blazers tonight at Moda Center. That ends the Wolves' three-game winning streak and puts them at 27-29 on the season. Tough loss, especially because the Wolves were up 18 in the first half and looked like they were in complete control. That changed in the second half, and Portland never looked back once they got the momentum and got their crowd involved. Kevin Love finished with a team-high 31 points, while Barea had 21 and Cunningham had 12. The Blazers got 32 from Damian Lillard, 22 from Batum, 17 from Matthews and 14 from Thomas Robinson off the bench. More to come tonight so stay tuned for postgame. POR 108, MIN 97
Q4 3:37: Just like that, it's a 14-point game. The Wolves just can't get any traction here in the fourth, probably due to the back-to-back fatigue kicking in and partially due to the fact that Portland just simply took this game over and didn't let go. Love did register his fifth straight 30-point game, which gives him the franchise record passing KG. POR 105, MIN 91
Q4 4:54: Minnesota is trying to keep this one close for one final push, but it needs to happen now if it's going to happen. The Wolves need to make their move with five minutes to play and down 10. They'll try to make the move with Barea, Muhammad, Budinger, Mbah a Moute and Love on the floor. POR 100, MIN 90
Q4 6:49: This game went from all Wolves to all Blazers, and it's getting ugly for Minnesota as we head into the final seven minutes. The Wolves are trailing by 12 after once leading by 18, and the Portland crowd is completely into this game. Minnesota lost the momentum late in the second and just haven't been able to get it back. It's too bad, because at 52-34 in the first half they were in great position to steal a game on the road. POR 98, MIN 86
Q4 11:14: So much for stopping the Blazers' run. Portland just got four quick points on this Wolves' reserve crew and are up eight--by far their largest lead of the night--with 11:14 to play. Minnesota calls an early timeout to try and get things straightened out. POR 88, MIN 80
End Q3: Portland has all the momentum right now, and they're doing a good job of keeping it. The crowd is getting louder, and we're looking at 12 minutes here in which the Wolves need to stifle the Blazers' aggressiveness, stop Damian Lillard and get them out of sync like they were in parts of the first half. Easier said than done. Lillard has 27 points on 9-of-14 shooting, while Batum has 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting. The Wolves have 28 from Love, 15 from Barea and 12 from Cunningham. Very critical that the Wolves come out and put together a run early in the fourth. POR 84, MIN 80
Q3 2:10: Things are getting interesting here. The Blazers took a one-point lead twice here after trailing by 18, then the Wolves pushed their own lead back up to four. We're currently sitting at an 80-79 Wolves lead with 2:10 left in the third. Love is still going nuts with 28 points, while Lillard has 27 of his own. We're in for a pretty intense end to this third and beginning of the fourth, so buckle up. MIN 80, POR 79
Q3 5:49: The Wolves once led by 18 but let the Blazers end the second on an 18-8 run and start the third on a 19-11 run. We're tied here midway through the third quarter, and the Wolves haven't been able to get back into sync since they let that double-digit lead slip away. Damian Lillard is the catalyst here, he's got 25 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field. He's in one of those rhythms where it feels like he's not going to miss. MIN 71, POR 71
Halftime: A lot changed in that last 1:42. Minnesota went cold and the Blazers started running, and they cut this thing from 18 down to eight points heading into the break. Not a good finish for the Wolves, who were in control until the very tail end of the first half. Now, they'll need to find a way to get the momentum back early in the second. For the Wolves, Love leads the way with 17 points and eight rebounds. Barea has 15 points off the bench. They were just 2-of-9 from 3-point range during that second quarter. For the Blazers, Lillard has 17 already and Batum has eight. The key here will be trying to keep the Blazers out of sync and see if they can win the turnover battle. Portland has a loud crowd on its side here, and they'll need to silence them early on in the third to get that edge back. MIN 60, POR 52
Q2 1:42: Things are getting sloppy here on both ends of the floor, but the Wolves are coming out ahead either way. For instance, on a recent possession Love took the ball up the court from under his own hoop, lost it at mid-court, got it back, fumbled the ball to a teammate who found Corey Brewer for the mid-range jumper. Just how you draw it up, right? Well, Minnesota hasn't lost any ground despite these types of occurrences here in the second, and they've got a 14-point lead with 1:42 left in the half. MIN 60, POR 46
Q2 5:56: The starters got a nice rest through the first part of the second quarter while the reserves not only kept the lead but extended it to as many as 16 at one point. J.J. Barea has been a big part of that. He's got 13 points on the night, including 10 in the second quarter, and he's shooting 5-of-8 overall and 3-of-5 from 3-point range. Gorgui Dieng continues to log minutes and looks more comfortable on the floor. He's not picking up fouls with such regularity like he was earlier in the year. And more importantly, the Wolves are holding the Blazers to 2-of-9 shooting in the second quarter, which has been a big part in Minnesota holding and extending its lead. MIN 50, POR 34
End Q1: Pretty solid first half for the Timberwolves. They led by 11 at one point and still hold a nine-point edge heading into the second quarter. They're shooting 58.3 percent and are 3-of-6 from 3-point range. Kevin Love continues to shine--he's got 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting. Ricky Rubio has five points and seven assists already, and Dante Cunningham has six points. Damian Lillard has 13 points for the Blazers and Nicolas Batum has eight. The Blazers also shooting 50 percent and are 4-of-7 from 3, but they have four turnovers to the Wolves' one. MIN 34, POR 26
Q1 2:33: Not a ton of defense so far tonight, but the Wolves are getting a few turnovers that are resulting in points on the other end. The most recent was a nice poke by J.J. Barea that turned into a drive and feed to Kevin Love for the baby hook. Love's got 13 points and four rebounds already, and he is a perfect 5-of-5 from the field. Damian Lillard is doing work for the Blazers, too. He's got 12 points and is 5-of-6 from the field, including 2-of-2 from 3-point range. MIN 31, POR 23
Q1 8:01: I'll boldly predict if the Wolves continue shooting at this rate, they're going to win tonight. Minnesota is shooting 88.9 percent through the first four minutes, hitting 8-of-9 from the field and taking an 18-9 lead heading into this Portland timeout. Love is picking up right where he left off last night. He's got seven points on 3-of-3 shooting and already has a 3-pointer. Rubio has gotten to the basket himself and found DC cutting to the hoop earlier, and Brewer was aggressive early getting to the cup, too. Nice start for Minnesota. MIN 18, POR 9
Wolves: PG-Ricky Rubio, SG-Chase Budinger, SF-Corey Brewer, PF-Dante Cunningham, C-Kevin Love
Blazers: PG-Damian LIllard, SG-Wesley Matthews, SF-Nicolas Batum, PF-Dorell Wright, C-Robin Lopez
PREGAME 7:45 PM: Blazers coach Terry Stotts said he and his team left no stone unturned when watching the Wolves’ tendencies on the fastbreak heading into tonight’s game.
“We showed every one of those [Kevin Love outlet passes] to the team,” Stotts said. “They, Brewer gets out and Love’s outlet passes are Wes Unseld. You don’t see anything like it these days. And he does it so easily and on the money. But against us, Rubio, Love didn’t play and Rubio was throwing those passes.”
The Timberwolves were incredibly effective with those outlet passes during November, most notably in wins against Dallas at home and the Lakers on the road. They were able to get out in transition quickly, thanks in large part to Brewer’s quickness getting behind the defense and Love’s pinpoint passing from 70 feet.
But in December and January, teams began getting back and limiting those opportunities. It was noticeable that Minnesota was unable to connect on those long passes and get easy points that not only pad the scoreboard but also, at times, demoralizes the opposing team because of the quick-hitting fashion of the points.
In February, we’ve seen much more of that again. Minnesota is pushing the pace, and they’re beginning to get back on a winning streak because of it.
It’s important anyway, but now with the Wolves missing bigs Nikola Pekovic and Ronny Turiaf, getting any extra points in easy fashion is welcomed.
We saw a ton of it on Saturday night in Utah with the Jazz unable to get back. Love benefited and registered a triple-double, and the Wolves benefitted with a big win. There was a point at the end of the first half when the Jazz hit a big shot to try and cut the lead, and Brewer came right back and received long outlet off the inbound from Love. Brewer scored, drew the foul and hit his free throw. That completely nullified Utah’s scoring on the other end.
“We have to push the pace, that’s where we’re at our best,” coach Rick Adelman said. “I think we still have the ability. Last night, we scored (121), we had the ability to score.”
How will the Blazers combat it tonight? If Stotts has his way, they’ll be getting back immediately after those Wolves’ shots go up to ensure they don’t have anyone leaking behind the defense. That goes a long way toward helping neutralize a big part of Minnesota’s game.
“It’s a big part of what they do,” Stotts said. “And they do it against everybody. We have to minimize those opportunities.”
PREGAME 7:15 PM: Welcome to Moda Center here in Portland, Ore., where the Wolves will take on the Trail Blazers tonight. It’s an exciting matchup here, as the Wolves are coming in as winners of three straight and trying to get back to .500 once again.
Last night in Utah, the Wolves beat the Jazz 121-104 in grand fashion, pushing the pace and getting a monster night from Kevin Love. Love put together his first triple-double of his career with 37 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.
Containing Love has become a real problem for the opposition, especially considering he put up those numbers and hit six 3-pointers from the center position. And he’s doing it with opposing teams keying on all facets of his game and trying to scout against it.
Which brings us to Blazers coach Terry Stotts’ subtle pregame joke when asked if they’ve wondered what they’ll do to slow Love down.
“We’ve talked about it, yes,” Stotts said.
Stotts, of course, has another one of the league’s top power forwards, LaMarcus Aldridge, but he will not be available tonight due to injury. Love will be playing center once again next to Dante Cunningham at the 4 as center Nikola Pekovic still isn’t ready to return from having bursitis in his right ankle.
Coach Rick Adelman confirmed that pregame tonight.
That doesn’t make it any easier to stop Love, though.
“He’s been putting up such phenomenal numbers for such a long time, you come to expect it,” Stotts said. “You have to guard against taking it for granted because he does so many things. He can score inside, outside, putbacks, now his triple-doubles and getting assists.”
Tonight, Adelman’s biggest worry with this configuration of Love at the 5 and no Pekovic or Ronny Turiaf available is how will he match up defensively with Blazers center Robin Lopez. Lopez has come into his own this year under the basket, and the Blazers will use him to bolster the middle while pulling down offensive rebounds.
“The problem there that you have is when you have Kevin as the center, defensively you give things up at the basket that you might not give up if you had Pek out there,” Adelman said. “We’re experimenting on the run here. That’s what you have to do in the regular season.”
That doesn’t take away from all the crazy stats Love is putting up, though. Here are a few to ponder from Saturday as we get set tonight: