Sweet 16 in Minnesota
In the NBA, winning 16 in a row over anybody is impressive. There are upsets every single night in this league and we're often talking about things not going as planned or predicted. But, with another four-game sweep of the Timberwolves in the books, by the time these teams meet again next season, it'll be over four years since a Minnesota win over Portland (and these teams play four times a season).
This game was very much like the game the Blazers played at the Target Center in early January. Got off to a big lead early, held on through a couple of Minnesota runs, and then won it by double digits. And, just like in that game, Wesley Matthews led the Blazers in scoring. He had 36 the last time he was in that building, 23 this time, and the Blazers won the game 95-81.
It wasn't a work of art, but when you're playing your third game in four nights on a road trip it doesn't matter.
The Timberwolves had just completed a road trip that saw them win at New Orleans and at Houston on back-to-back nights, but were not that team in this game. They were out of sorts from the opening tip and the Trail Blazers took full advantage, rushing out to an 18-2 lead. Portland's biggest lead of the night was when it was 31-14, and Minnesota did make a few runs. They got it to 42-36 in the first half, and then had it down to 8 several times in the second.
One very nice thing happened for the Trail Blazers (besides the win)- the reigning Western Conference Player of the Week didn't explode offensively and it didn't matter. LaMarcus Aldridge had 21 points and was solid. But, he didn't have to be spectacular. We had asked that question in the pre-game show about the trend of Portland needing him to score in the 30s for them to win, and what would happen if he didn't. Well, he got help, and the Blazers still won.
Matthews had his 23, Rudy Fernandez was solid again with 18, and Dante Cunningham had a spectacular game. Dante had a career-high 18 points, and a career-high 13 rebounds, including a career-high 8 offensive rebounds. The amazing part of this is that he got those numbers while playing only 24 minutes due to foul trouble. I don't know what his numbers would have been had he played 35 minutes.
The Trail Blazers also got away with shooting 44 percent from the field. Being they are 22-5 when shooting over 45 percent, anytime they are under that it's a concern. In the four previous games they had shot 54 percent, and that's a bit out of character for this team. So, it was nice to see them hit their season average from the field, and still win.
To listen to Nate McMillan's post-game comments, click here
The Trail Blazers now sit a season-high seven games over .500, at 31-24. That's the same record they had last year at this time. And, keep in mind they have played 30 road games now, and only 25 home games. Again, given all that has happened, that's impressive stuff.
Because of what happened in Houston, the Trail Blazers have moved past Denver in the Western Conference race, are tied with Utah, and are only a game and a-half behind New Orleans. Amazingly, they are just four behind Oklahoma City who sits in the fourth playoff spot.
Next up, another big game, as they host the Hornets on Wednesday night. They've already dropped two to New Orleans this season, and depending on what happens Tuesday night when the Hornets play at Golden State, the Blazers could pull even with the Hornets with a win on Wednesday.
As we talked about during the TV broadcast on Monday night, it's time to start looking up in the standings instead of down. That's the result of getting hot at a good time. Everything starts looking up.