Trail Blazers vs Timberwolves Saturday, 01/05/13 AT 05:00PM

Trail Blazers Survive In Minnesota, Finsh Trip 3-1

  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0


    The Trail Blazers (18-15)  jumped out on the Timberwolves (15-15) from the very beginning and were able to withstand tired legs and a late run to outlast them for a 102-97 victory. Wesley Matthews (2 assists) and Nicolas Batum (five rebounds, three assists) led the way for the Trail Blazers with 26 points each and LaMarcus Aldridge (14 points, nine rebounds, six assists) hit big buckets down the stretch to seal the win.

    The Trail Blazers jumped out to a lead that got as big as 22 points. They dominated the game, as only Nikola Pekovic (21 points, 15 rebounds) could get anything going offensively for Minnesota. Portland was raining threes from everywhere on the court as Matthews, Batum and Damian Lillard (20 points, six assists) were letting the threes fly.  Portland lit it up from deep as they hit 16 of their 24 three-point attempts.

    For the second match-up in a row, Portland's perimeter players dominated their counterparts from Minnesota. Matthews and Lillard combined for 58 points in the previous meeting but Batum's offensive performance was less-than stellar the last time around. Batum was the man that got Portland going early on as he scored their first seven points. The three perimeter players for Portland put on a clinic and were in a zone from beyond the arc. They tied a franchise record for most threes made in a game with 16, which has been done four times now, and tonight's performance was tied for the fewest attempts to get to 16.

    "We had it rolling. The three-point line was rolling tonight," Terry Stotts said. "Some of them were tough, some of them were wide open."

    Nikola Pekovic had a big game of 21 points and 15 rebounds. Then at the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Trail Blazers started to show signs of fatigue and metaphorically took their foot off the gas pedal. Back came the Wolves, even though they were short handed and Derrick WIlliams played well off the bench with 18 points and six rebounds helping trigger the fourth quarter surge.

    "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."

    10, 7, 4, the lead kept dwindling. Portland couldn't score. The Timberwolves, with the sixth best defense in the league, started playing like it. They revved up their defense and Portland went from the 7:05 minute mark to the 3:00 without a field goal. Down the stretch, everything was looking short and it seemed like the fourth game in five nights had finally taken it's toll. When asked about the fatigue, Stotts didn't use it as an excuse and credited Minnesota for their comeback. With the offense all out of whack, the Trail Blazers threw the ball to the man Stotts calls their horse, LaMarcus Aldridge.

    With Portland showing amazing marksmanship on the three point line, Minnesota didn't dare double the All-Star forward. Aldridge broke the drought, Portland got a stop and a Matthews three-pointer made the lead nine again. It was under two minutes, but the Wolves went on a 7-0 run in a matter of 19 seconds. It was a two-point game. Another empty possession followed for the Trail Blazers but a JJ Barea turnover on the ensuing play let Portland exhale again. You could see that their legs had gone and that the energy wasn't there. With 37 second left, the Trail Blazers dumped the ball to LA again and he hit a turnaround to give Portland a four-point lead, and their lead would not be smaller than that for the final half-minutes.

    "He was getting great looks on the block," Stotts said about Aldridge, who had only scored 10 points on seven of 20 shooting in the game before hitting those final two shots. "He's a great player and I had a pretty good feeling they were going to go in at some point."

    Portland survived. They jumped out but they couldn't do it long enough to rest their starters near the end and they outlasted a hungry team playing on their home court. Portland sustained their energy and emotion after their hard fought win in Memphis and move to 3-1 on the road trip and three games over five-hundred for the first time this season. They are also now 9-2 in games decided by six points or fewer. This one probably shouldn't have gotten to be that close, but even after almost blowing the game, they picked themselves up and finished. The toughness both mentally and physically of this team cannot be questioned after the performances these past two games. It doesn't get any easier, as Portland faces many tough teams ahead including the defending champion Miami Heat.

    Don't miss Brian Wheeler's call of Victor Claver's jam on Minnesota's Greg Stiemsma or his call of one of LA's big shots in the final moments.

    The Trail Blazers survive and improve to 3-1 on the four-game road trip. Portland returns to Portland to face the Orlando Magic on Monday. That game will be at 7PM and will be shown on CSNNW and can be heard on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.

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