Johnson, Ridnour Help Wolves Win 5th Straight Home Game

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Timberwolves forward Wes Johnson could tell even from his first shots in warm-ups that Wednesday’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers could be special. Coming back to the pregame locker room, Johnson couldn’t help but notice guard Luke Ridnour had the same hop in his step.

“He was running around the locker room and I said, ‘How you feeling?’” Johnson said. “He said, ‘I feel good.’ I said, ‘I do, too.’ It showed tonight.”

Minnesota relied heavily on Johnson and Ridnour’s sharp-shooting on Wednesday against the Blazers, and it paid off in a 106-94 victory in front of 17,118 at Target Center. The win gave Minnesota it’s second straight win over Portland this season after carrying a 16-game losing streak to the Blazers into the 2011-12 campaign, and it’s the first five-game home winning streak the Wolves have had since the 2006-07 season.

Along with Houston’s loss to Toronto, the win catapulted the Wolves (21-19) into the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff hunt. Minnesota is now 9-2 against San Antonio, Dallas, Houston and Portland this season; over the past four years, the Wolves were a combined 2-57 against those four teams.

The difference?

“We’re making plays,” forward Kevin Love said. “Everybody we’re putting out there, they’re professionals. They’re ready to go.”

The spark on Wednesday came from Johnson, who finished 8-for-11 from the floor and tallied a season-high 19 points on the night. He hit 3-of-4 shots from 3-point range and attacked the offensive boards with authority.

He and Ridnour were making shots when the Wolves needed to make a run. Ridnour finished with 22 points on the night, including seven in the final 5:37 of the game. His long jumper gave Minnesota a 92-84 lead as Portland tried to mount a late fourth quarter comeback, and his 3-pointer with 3:21 left pushed the Wolves’ lead to 95-86. The Wolves hit a season-high 13 3-pointers in the game—Johnson, Love and Ridnour each had three apiece.

Coach Rick Adelman said the 6-foot-2 Ridnour also brings a fiery attitude on the defensive end, and it showed Wednesday as he was continuously paired with taller opponents. Meanwhile, Adelman said Johnson showed aggressiveness all night.

“He’s just got to keep making the shots,” Adelman said. “They’re open; he’s got to take them. He’s capable of making them. It’s just about getting comfortable, and when it comes to him he’s going to shoot it.”

Ridnour and Johnson complemented Love’s regular dominance, as he finished with 29 points and 16 rebounds on the night. Love was simply too much for Portland to handle for the second straight meeting—he’s averaging 35.5 points and 13.0 rebounds in the two meetings—all while being guarded by All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge.

He took over the game at the end of the first, putting together a lay-up and three 3-pointers in the final two minutes.

Meanwhile, the Wolves found a way to contain Aldridge as the game wore on. Aldridge had 17 points in the first half, mostly on long jump shots, but finished with 22 points for the game.

“We just wanted to get better defensively as the game rolled on,” Adelman said. “I wasn’t really concerned that he made so many jumpers. You’re going to give those up sometimes.”

Martell Webster added 10 points off the bench on 2-of-3 shooting, including making both of his 3-point attempts on the night. His 3-pointer with 1:40 left gave Minnesota a 102-88 lead and all but iced the game. Derrick Williams finished with nine points, Rubio had eight points and four assists and Michael Beasley had five.

JJ Barea left the game with a sprained left ankle in the second half and did not return.

Portland (19-20) fell to 5-13 on the road. Guard Raymond Felton finished with 23 points, Gerald Wallace and Wesley Matthews had 13 each and Nicolas Batum had nine.

The Wolves, meanwhile, are continuing to build confidence and are well aware they are now eighth in the West. But Love said it means nothing if they don’t keep their solid play going, and it starts on Friday against the Lakers at home.

Adelman said he hopes that confidence will develop into a rhythm that carries them through a difficult road stretch in March.

“We’re relevant right now,” Adelman said. “We’ve made a run here that got us in that position. There’s no reason we’re any different than anybody else that is in those spots. What we’re building toward, just trying to stay in the hunt. Right now we’ve worked on the eighth spot, two games above .500, and wer’e going to try to build on it.”

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