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Dante Burns Heartbroken Timberwolves

02/14/11
  1. Written by: ShalamarClark  / avg. rating: 5.0

    Valentine’s Day is a special day filled with love, but the Portland Trail Blazers showed no love for the Minnesota, dropping the Timberwolves for the 16th straight time in Monday’s 95-81 victory at Target Center.

    Portland (31-24) had its best road showing of the season, sweeping Toronto, Detroit and Minnesota all on the road to tie its season best five-game winning streak.
     
    Wesley Matthews scored a game-high 23 points and hit three from downtown, including 8-of-18 shooting, and pulled down seven rebounds to tie San Antonio for the longest active streak held over an NBA franchise. Ironically, both runs have been posted against the Timberwolves (13-42).
     
    LaMarcus Aldridge recorded 21 points, six rebounds and five assists, while Dante Cunningham registered a career-high in points and rebounds with 18 and 13, including a career-best eight offensive boards as Portland shot 44 percent to complete the four-year sweep.

    "We wanted to take advantage of Dante's speed, his energy, scrappiness,” said Trail Blazers' Head Coach Nate McMillan of Cunningham. “Since putting him in the lineup, we're certainly quicker but we're small, and he played big tonight. He was flying all over the place rebounding the ball.”

    Cunningham showcased his speed in the final period, soaring through the lane for two offensive rebounds on one possession. Then, he scored four consecutive points to lift Portland 81-67 before going to the bench with his fifth foul.

    Cunningham made his last statement before fouling out with 4:24 left after slipping past his defender in the paint and put in a bucket from a dish by Aldridge.

    "Tonight I've seen a lot more rim than usual,” said Cunningham. “Not a lot of bodies. A lot of times I'm running into bodies running to the rim, so just tonight, I saw a lot of open space so I got a good step I guess."

    Martell Webster led Minnesota with 17 points, including four from deep, and grabbed six rebounds as his team shot 39 percent to fall for its third consecutive game. 

    Luke Ridnour helped with 16 points and connected on three deep balls, while Darko Milicic added 15 points and five rebounds, but couldn’t overcome Portland’s 17-point lead in the second quarter. 

    The Trail Blazers led 33-16 in the second quarter after Cunningham, who had 10 points and nine rebounds in the first two quarters, knocked in a jumper to push the lead. The Timberwolves responded with back-to-back threes from Ridnour to pull within 10, and then surged an 8-2 run to trail 56-48 at halftime. 

    Aldridge had 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting in the first half, while Matthews and Rudy Fernandez, who finished with 18 points and four threes, chipped in with 12 points and a pair of threes each.
     
    "Sometimes those quick starts, you start to relax,” said McMillan. “I thought we got off to a good start. They continued to fight and they're a good three point shooting team. Their threes got them back into the game as well as some offensive opportunities. We had a few turnovers. Their bench was really good in the first half. I thought our bench matched their intensity in the second half. We cleaned up the offensive opportunities and was able to break it open."

    It took time for Portland to break anything open after the half. Minnesota went 0-for-6 to start the third, but Portland couldn’t extend its 12-point lead after committing three straight turnovers. 

    Matthews finally ignited the Trail Blazers from long range, followed by Nicolas Batum, who slammed home a dunk over Milicic for a 6-0 run. Batum ended with just three points and Andre Miller scored six and a season-high eight rebounds.

    "I thought he did a good job of making reads,” said McMillan of Aldridge. “Teams are now trying to figure out how to double team LaMarcus and a lot of times they're ball watching. I thought he did a great job of flashing tonight. L.A. is getting better at passing out of double teams and being patient on the post, and he found Dante a couple times for layups. The execution was really good with the defense really locking in on L.A. on the block."

    Portland outhustled the league's No. 1 rebounding team on the boards, 41-35, and held a 27-22 defensive and 14-13 offensive edge. Kevin Love recorded his 40th consecutive double-double of 12 points and a team-high 11 rebounds.
       
    “Dante played great for us tonight,” said Aldridge, who was named the Western Conference Player of the Week. “He's been starting. Tonight he played with a lot of energy. He plays for us. I think in the past, their guys did it against us, crashing the boards and being active, but tonight, he did it more than anybody. He got rebounds that weren't even in his area. He finished strong in the paint, he played great for us."

    “We don't think about streaks,” said Aldridge. “We just think about staying solid. This is our best road trip of the season, so we weren't talking about streaks. We were just talking about finishing up this road trip really, really good and going into the All-Star break, which should be good for us."

    The Trail Blazers, who moved up to the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference, will return to the Rose Garden to start a five-game stay hosting the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 PM. 

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