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Matthews And Lillard Torch Wolves

  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 4.0

    Wesley Matthews and Damian Lillard had it going from the field all night long as they combined for 58 of Portland's 103 points in a 103-95 win against the Minnesota Timberwolves (5-6). The Trail Blazers improve to 6-6 on the season. Damian Lillard also tied a career-high with 28 points.

    After having their worst performance of the year on the road in Phoenix, Terry Stotts brought Portland's bad team defensive numbers to the team's attention on Friday morning.

    "We don't feel we should ever lose like that (talking about the Phoenix game) to anybody. And Coach brought it to our attention in shoot around today. You know, where we stand in the NBA," Wesley Matthews said.  

    The numbers weren't pretty coming into the game as the Trail Blazers. The Trail Blazers were ranked 29th in the league in defensive efficiency and last in the league in opponents effective field goal percentage (a statistic that takes into account the extra value of three-point shots). The message from Stotts was clear and the team responded.

    "We adjusted and we took it to heart and we played with pride," Matthews said. "That's what we got to do on this road trip and the rest of the season."

    Matthews talked about Stotts' talk to the team about their defense as a reality check.

    "It's nothing until you see it. You can hear it," Matthews said. "It still takes calling out and that's what Coach did. And everybody responded the right way"

    After surrendering 57 percent shooting to the Wolves and 33 points after the first quarter, the Trail Blazers buckled down defensively. The Wolves shot 20 of 57 (35 percent) from the field the rest of the game. The effort on defense was evident, even though the big man tandem of Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Love put up solid numbers offensively, however, most of their damage was done at the line (combined 28 free-throws between them). Love was only six for 15 from the floor and Pekovic was four for 13.

    LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Love were in a battle and Aldridge got into foul trouble. With 9:27 left in the third quarter, Aldridge and Love were hit with a double-foul and double-technical. That gave Aldridge five fouls. Aldridge would go for another two and half minutes before getting subbed out for Jared Jeffries. It was a gut check for the Trail Blazers as they had to try and come back from a five-point halftime deficit without their All-Star power forward against one of the NBA's toughest frontlines. The defense answered and so did Wesley Matthews and Damian Lillard.

    Matthews and Lillard had already been carrying the Trail Blazers offensively in the first half as they combined for 31 points at the end of the half. They continued on their tear. Lillard and Nicolas Batum, who has been dealing with a cold, played all twelve minutes of the third. Lillard had eight points and 3 assists in the third period including a couple of big-time three-pointers. Stotts praised Lillard after the game for his pick and roll play.

    "The backcourt, Damian's scoring, his pick and roll decisions and scoring kept us afloat," Stotts said.

    Matthews also had six points in the third quarter. Lillard finished with a line of 28 points, eight assists, four rebounds and one block.

    In the fourth, Coach Stotts decided to show trust in his All-Star to play the game with five fouls. He reinserted Aldridge for Lillard at the 10:11 mark of the third quarter.

    "Damian was carrying us and I had to give him a blow. He'd (Aldridge) had been sitting there for a while and I wanted to get him some minutes," Stotts said.

    Stotts talked about how it was likely Aldridge would commit his sixth foul. He gave good minutes and Stotts was proud of the way he played. Aldridge finished with 13 points and six rebounds.

    As the fourth quarter began, the Trail Blazers went on a 7-0 run, five of which came from bench players, Ronnie Price (3) and Sasha Pavlovic. Stotts would say after the game that the minutes he got from those two as well as Jared Jeffries late in the game were "invaluable." After that, Wesley Matthews would begin to light it up. He scored nine of his 30 points in the final period including a beautiful fadeaway with 3:42 left to put the Trail Blazers up by nine. Jeffries then came in for Hickson as the Trail Blazers were going to try and put the clamps down on any Timberwolves thoughts at a comeback. With 2:54 left in the final period, Aldridge picked up the sixth foul that Stotts seemed to know was coming. Hickson entered the game again and continued to bring energy. Hickson finished with a double-double of 14 points and 13 rebounds. Six of those thirteen rebounds came in the final period and Stotts was very happy to have his starting center back after he missed their previous game.

    "His energy, his going after rebounds. Defensively, Pekovic is a big dude and he was with him," Stotts said.

    Love (24 points, 13 rebounds) and Pekvoic (18 points, 10 rebounds) each finished with a double-double. Additionally, they shot a combined 28 free-throws. Portland was also out rebounded 47-33 in addition to going an atrocious eight of 18 (44 percent) from the foul line. None of that mattered, however, as Portland wound up victorious after being down by as much as 13 points early in the second quarter. It was a "grind it out win" for Coach Stotts and his team that they desperately needed after being, as Matthews put it, "embarrassed" against Phoenix.  

    "I've been saying this a long time, if you look at our stat sheets, we don't win a lot of categories a lot of times," Stotts said. "There's not a definitive way to win a game. I think it's important for us that how we play is important and sometimes it's not going to be defined by a box score."

    Portland heads to Brooklyn for their next game on Sunday. That game will tip off at 12PM at the Barclay's Center and will be shown on CSNNW and can be heard on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM. That game is the first of a seven-game Eastern Conference road trip.

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