Fourth Quarter Comeback Comes Up Short As Wolves Fall To Blazers 100-98
For three quarters, the Wolves were stuck in mud.
Then, after a wild fourth quarter in which they climbed back from a large deficit to come within one, Minnesota missed two chances to tie and ended up falling to the Portland Trail Blazers, 100-98, on Monday night.
“In the last six minutes we turned it up and the energy was high,” coach Rick Adelman said. “Got some turnovers, made some shots, but you get too far down and it's too hard to get back. Everything has to be perfect to come back and win that game.”
Wolves vs Blazers
The first 36 minutes of the contest were sluggish. Neither team was sharp—Minnesota’s field goal percentage was a full 20 percent beneath Portland’s, and the Blazers had tossed away 21 turnovers. But on the heels of LaMarcus Aldridge’s patented turnaround jumper and solid shooting from their wings, the Blazers ran up a 19-point lead on the Wolves in front of a quiet Target Center crowd.
“We didn’t play good from the very beginning,” Pekovic said. “We let them have easy shots, we didn’t pressure their most important players, they got a lot of open shots.”
Dante Cunningham, Minnesota’s hero from Saturday’s big win, finally got into gear during the fourth quarter and reeled off 17 points, including four straight buckets capped with a dunk. Several of those shots came from Ricky Rubio assists, and before you knew it, the Wolves were miraculously within one point, 99-98.
With 21 seconds left, Rubio missed a fade-away shot that Aldridge contested. The Wolves got another shot after two missed Portland free throws, but Cunningham missed an 18-footer to seal the game in the Blazers’ favor.
“Finally in the fourth quarter we started playing,” Pekovic said. “We had a chance to at least go to overtime, but we didn’t play how we talked before the game. This can be one big lesson for us; when we don’t play how we are supposed to play, then it is really difficult.”
The fourth quarter was a huge turnaround for the Wolves, who struggled mightily before that. Besides Cunningham’s 17 points, Barea added 11 and Rubio dished out 10 assists. Minnesota outscored Portland 40-23 in the final frame, looking like the team that dominated New Orleans on Saturday.
But, in the end, it was just too late.
“We have to start earlier,” Barea said. “That’s something we did last game and it helped, but tonight we didn’t do it. We waited too long to get it going, but we made an effort, you know?”
Rubio finished with a season-high 15 points to go along with his 14 assists, the latter of which is a career-tying mark. Cunningham led the team with 23 points on 11-of-17 shooting, and Barea pitched in 17 more.
Aldridge paced Portland with 25 points and 13 rebounds. The Blazers received strong play from their guards as well, with Wes Matthews netting 22 points [including four 3-pointers] and 21 points from Damian Lillard.
Leader of the Pack: Dante Cunningham
This is turning into a historic stretch for Cunningham. One game after shooting a perfect 9-for-9 from the field against New Orleans, he turned around and dropped 17 points in the fourth quarter alone against Portland. He ended up with 23 [a career-high] and had another great performance excluding his chance to tie the game at the end.
“The way they were playing it, he was going to get open shots,” coach Adelman said of Cunningham. “We talked about that all the time. He got them and he knocked them down. But we have to do a better job as a team. The ball has to move a little bit better than it moved tonight.
“We can't do it by ourselves and one guy can't make everything happen.”
Highlight of the Night
At the 6:50 mark in the second quarter, Damian Lillard came up with a steal and raced down towards his hoop for what looked like was going to be a breakaway slam. But Greg Stiemsma hustled back and swatted Lillard’s shot away, sending both players to the ground. It was an impressive hustle play in a half where the Wolves largely struggled to find a spark.
The Numbers Game
“We didn’t take the opportunity here at home after a great win in New Orleans. We lost a great opportunity today, because Portland is right there fighting for the playoffs, too. We are a little farther now and chances are going. There aren’t a lot of chances left, and we have to take it." —Ricky Rubio on the Wolves’ urgency at this point in the season
The next opponent for Minnesota is San Antonio, a team of veterans that will be the Wolves’ fifth-straight home opponent. The Target Center home stand is wrapped up on Friday against New York.