There was another game going on for the city of Minneapolis on Saturday night. While the Vikings were battling the Packers, the Timberwolves were hosting the Portland Trailblazers. The Wolves came into the game 1 game over .500, while the Trailblazers have been 7-3 over their last 10 games, and 7th in the Western Conference. Both Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love were out for this game. Ricky because of ongoing back spasms, and Kevin, after an MRI earlier on Saturday revealed he had re-broke the same bone in his hand.
The Wolves started the game with Pek, Dante Cunningham, Kirilenko, Shved and Ridnour. The Blazers countered with JJ Hickson, LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Wes Matthews and Damian Lillard. All signs seemed to look good for the Wolves who were able to open up a quick 6-2 lead. One thing that was most noticeable for the Wolves was there ball movement. On 8 baskets the Wolves had 7 assists and led 17-14. Both teams were trading baskets and neither team was able to open up a large lead midway through the 1st quarter, until Portland went on a 9-0 run and opened up a 6 point advantage with 1:22 left to play in the opening quarter. Minnesota closed the quarter on a 4-0 run to get the game back to a 1 possession game as the 1st quarter came to an end with Portland leading 23-21. Both teams seemed to be content playing at about the same pace. It was also clear that Pek was having a great game right from the start as he had 9 points in the 1st quarter while clearly dominating inside.
To start the 2nd quarter each team went to their benches and Portland’s bench is 30th in the league in scoring, while the Wolves bench has been solid. This would seem to be where the Wolves would be able to open up a lead. Instead Portland was able to go on a 12-0 run on 4 3 pointers and open up a 35-21 lead with 7:59 to play in the 1st half. The Wolves finally stopped the bleeding when JJ Berea hit a 3 for the Wolves first basket of the 2nd quarter with 7:39 left and trailing 35-24. The biggest difference of the 2nd quarter was the 3 ball for the Blazers who hit 6 in the quarter. As the Blazers were able to knock down the triple, the Wolves stuck with their game plan of getting the ball inside, as the Blazers were hitting 3’s (57% in the 1st half) and the Wolves 2’s, the Blazers were able to take a 10 point lead (53-43) into halftime.
Pek was clearly dominating the inside on both ends whether it was JJ Hickson or LaMarcus Aldridge. He went into the half with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Shved was quietly having a great game assisting the ball as he notched 8 assist in the 1st half. The Wolves dominated the boards, 26-12, but because of either hot shooting or poor perimeter defense the Blazers were scorching the nets and able to take a 10 point lead. In something that was very uncharacteristic, the Wolves only shot 3 free throws in the 1st half.
Both teams started the 3rd with the same 5 they started the game with. The Blazers opened up the 3rd quarter with a 3, and it looked as if this could be one of those nights for the Wolves. No matter what they would try to do defensively the Blazers were just going to knock down shots. For as hot as the Blazers were shooting the Wolves couldn’t seem to hit a jump shot, over a 6:12 span, the Wolves scored 6 points. During that dry spell, the Blazers were able to open up their largest lead of the game at 22 (73-51) with 4:06 left to play in the 3rd quarter. Part of the reason Portland was able to open up such a large lead, was with 5:04 left to play in the 3rd quarter, Pek went down with what was diagnosed as a left hip strain. Pek didn’t return to action after leaving the court and there was no other information given at the time. Pek had a great line going for him as he finished 9-14 with 21 points and 15 rebounds. Portland took advantage of hot shooting and Pek’s injury to take a 79-61 lead into the 4th and final quarter.
No Love, no Rubio and no Pek going into the 4th quarter and the Wolves trailing by 18 there was a pretty big mountain for the Wolves to climb. For the most part, the Wolves hadn’t been able to get to the free throw line, and that was in large part due to the Wolves lack of aggressiveness. The Wolves weren’t taking the ball to the hole. It all changed in the 4th and final quarter. The Wolves defense started to show up and players were driving it to the hole. The Wolves went to the free throw line 10 times in the 4th quarter, and one of the most aggressive of all of the Wolves was Derrick Williams, who netted 18 4th quarter points. The 4th had the Wolves down 18, and started off with a Luke Babbitt hitting a 3. Derrick Williams countered and the next possession scoring his first points of the game with 10:43 to play on a tough and 1. The Blazers knocked down 2 more 3’s on the next 2 possessions to hold an 88-68 lead with 9:42 to play. The Wolves defense would tighten up as the Blazers would only make 4 more field goals for the rest of the game. With the Wolves defense finally getting stops and the offense being aggressive, the Wolves were able to chip away at the lead and narrow the Blazers lead down to 2 (94-96) with 1:19 to play. With the Wolves defense playing so well, LaMarcus Aldridge hit a cold blooded turnaround jumper to open the Blazers lead back to 4 (98-94) with 37.1 seconds left to play. After a Wolves turnover on the next possession, the foul game started and the Wolves were not able to hit the 3 and the comeback feel short as the Wolves lost 102-97.
For as good as Alexey Shved was dishing the ball, he struggled from the floor going 1-11 for 2 points.
It will be interesting to see the extent of Peks injury; he dominated the Blazers inside, and would be a huge hit to the front court.
The Wolves crushed the Blazers on the boards out rebounding them 52-39.
The Wolves 3 point woes continued yet again, as the Wolves shot 31.2% while the Blazers went 16-24 (66.7%).
The Wolves now .500 on the year, will look to get back on their winning ways when they host the Atlanta Hawks with a 7 pm tip.