Blazers Hold Off Wolves, Win 102-97
For a second, Saturday’s game between Minnesota and Portland looked like it was going to end heavily in the Blazers’ favor.
During a stretch in the second half, the Wolves’ deficit hovered around 20 points, topping out at 22. But Minnesota showed fight—trimming the gap to as little as two points late in the fourth quarter—before falling 102-97.
“I think we all took it a little personally,” Derrick Williams said of the late comeback attempt. “We were down 20 points in the third quarter, and guys showed heart. We just have to play like that all the time.”
Wolves vs Blazers
After learning before tip-off that they would be without star Kevin Love for an undetermined amount of time with a broken right hand, the Wolves went into tonight’s game with just 10 healthy players. That number was cut to nine when Nikola Pekovic left in the third quarter with a hip strain.
Despite limited personnel and a mountain of points to overcome, however, Minnesota nearly made a comeback with a 26-8 run late in the game. Part of that was fueled by a huge fourth-quarter effort from Williams, who dropped 18 points in the final frame. The Wolves were only down two points until LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum all hit crucial shots late for Portland and sealed the win.
“We got to the open court, made some shots, attacked the basket and got the penalty early,” coach Rick Adelman said. “I don't know what it was the first three quarters.”
The Blazers built their lead in part due to a scorching shooting display from outside, as they converted 16-of-24 shots from beyond the arc—good for a 67 percent rate.
“You have to give them a lot of credit, they were hot,” JJ Barea said. “They made like 16 threes, so it’s tough to beat a team when they’re hot like that. If we played with that intensity a little bit earlier, it would have been better for us.”
Portland was led by Batum and Matthews (26 points and five three-point baskets each) and rookie Damian Lillard (20 points, six assists). Aldridge had a well-rounded box score with 14 points, nine boards and six assists.
“We had it rolling,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “The three-point line was rolling tonight. Some of them were tough, some were wide open, good execution, good passing... but if you shoot the three that well you should win by more than five.”
Pekovic led Minnesota with 21 points and 15 rebounds in just 21 minutes of playing time before leaving with a minor injury. Andrei Kirilenko and Luke Ridnour each had 15 points, and Barea contributed 14.
“I give a lot of credit to Minnesota,” Stotts said. “The way they played in the fourth quarter, they were the more aggressive team. We dialed it back, we made some mental mistakes.
“Because we were making the three we may have got a little too happy and loosened up defensively and we had breakdowns. Minnesota kept playing.”
Leader of the Pack: Derrick Williams
As a bench player with loads of potential, Derrick Williams has both dazzled and frustrated Timberwolves fans this year. He came to Minnesota’s rescue on Saturday night, making 6-for-10 shots from the field and totaling 18 points—all of which were scored in the fourth quarter.
According to coach Adelman, with Kevin Love sidelined for an unknown amount of time, Williams has plenty of chances ahead of him in these next few weeks.
“The opportunity is there,” Adelman said. “Like I said, we have to compete. There is no time. I just told them in the locker room, the games don't stop. Everybody has to step up; Derrick, DC [Dante Cunningham], everybody.”
Highlight of the Night
With less than two minutes remaining, the Wolves cut Portland’s lead to just two points when Barea drove into the lane, crossed over and tossed a bounce pass to Williams. Williams slammed the ball home with authority, making the score 96-94 and causing Target Center to erupt with noise.
The Numbers Game
“They are athletic. They made shots. They were aggressive defensively. They did a lot of good things. They deserved to get back into the game the way they were playing."—Portland coach Terry Stotts on Minnesota’s comeback attempt in the fourth quarter.