Shorthanded Wolves Fall to Blazers, 117-110

Rick Adelman got a dose of some deja vu on Saturday night.

After playing a majority of games last season without their core players, the Timberwolves found themselves in that situation against the Portland Trail Blazers as they were without Kevin Love, Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic.

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Wolves vs. Blazers

The shorthanded Wolves were lacking players, but not lack or effort. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to take down the Blazers at the Target Center, as they fell 117-110.

“It was a tough game,” said Wolves coach Rick Adelman. “Our guys played their butts off. They (the Blazers) just took it over in the fourth quarter.”

The Wolves started Ricky Rubio, Corey Brewer, Chase Budinger, Dante Cunningham and Ronny Turiaf.

Rubio, who isn’t known for his scoring, was the one putting the points for the Wolves in the first quarter and not only kept them in the game, but actually led all scorers with 11 points in the quarter. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to give the Wolves a lead after the first. Portland led 28-23 behind eight points from LaMarcus Aldridge and Wesley Matthews.

Not only was Rubio great on the offensive end (4-of-7 FGs, 3-of-3 FTs), he was solid defensively, forcing two offensive fouls and limiting Damian Lillard to no points.

Instead of the Wolves falling behind after putting their second unit in, they actually inched closer and a big reason for that was the play of Cunningham and rookie Shabazz Muhammad. Muhammad had a team-high nine points in the quarter, while Cunningham added seven points and five rebounds in the quarter. DC also went on a 4-0 run by himself to inch the Wolves to just a 49-48 deficit with two minutes remaining. The Wolves trialed 55-54 at halftime.

The Wolves actually took a 77-72 lead after a Budinger 3-pointer with 3:11 minutes left in the third quarter. But thanks to four points from Lillard and Joel Freeland, the Blazers were able to knot the game up at 83 heading into the fourth.

As it has been all season, the fourth quarter was Minnesota’s kryptonite. The Blazers outscored the Wolves 34-27 in the final quarter, thanks to 13 points in the quarter from Matthews.

Despite the loss, the team played very well together for the first three quarters, considering who they were without. Brewer led Minnesota with 26 points and seven rebounds. Rubio added a career-high 25 points to go with nine assists and a steal. Budinger had a season-high 19 points and was 3-of-6 from the 3-point line. Cunningham had his first double-double of the season, scoring 14 points and hauling in 10 rebounds. Muhammad led the bench with 12 points.

Aldridge led Portland with 26 point and nine rebounds. Matthews added 21. C.J. McCollum and Joel Freeland led the bench with 19 and 11 points, respectively. Nicolas Batum scored 15 points, while Lillard add 14.

The Wolves are now 24-27 overall.

Leader of the Pack: Ricky Rubio

And you thought he could only pass. Rubio was the spark the Wolves needed offensively and put up a career-high 25, points. Rubio shot 8-of-19 from the field, 2-of-4 from the 3-point line and 7-of-8 from the free-throw line. He had a game-high nine assists to go with a steal.

“He (Rubio) had a great game,” Adelman said. “He was on the attack and aggressive. We had a lot of guys who stepped up tonight.”

Highlight of the Night

This isn’t exactly one play, so we are cheating a bit here. Sue us. Not really, though. Don’t sue us.

In the second quarter, rookie Shabazz Muhammad entered the game and simply dominated in his eight minutes on the court. Muhammad had nine second-quarter points, which led the team, going 4-of-5 from the field, which included a three-point play. Those nine points were a career for Muhammad for a game, let alone a quarter.

The Numbers Game

  • Muhammad was 4-of-5 in the first half. The rest of Minnesota’s bench was 0-of-5.

  • Turiaf had a season-high blank 13, his most since April 3, 2009.

  • Despite not having Love or Pekovic, the Wolves outscored the Blazers 52-28 in the paint.

  • Postgame Podcast

    Blazers 117, Wolves 110

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    “Yeah, I mean, we just had to take the opportunity. As I said before, coach said next man up. I think we did a good job of just having a good spirit out there and playing hard… I think we played really hard and did things we had to do but we came up short.” — Wolves rookie forward Shabazz Muhammad on the team stepping up despite being without Love, Martin and Pekovic.

    Next Up

    The good news after a tough loss like tonight, is that the Wolves get to stay home. The bad news is the competition isn’t any easier. The Wolves gear up to host the Houston Rockets on Monday night. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on Fox Sports North, NBATV and WCCO 830-AM.