The Minnesota Timberwolves are not going to have much sympathy for a team like the Portland Trail Blazers playing their fourth game in five nights. The Wolves built a 32 point lead (62-30) in the second quarter behind Kevin Love’s 17 points, 11 rebounds and 8 assists in a first half that saw the Wolves put up 69 points. Love would finish with 29 points, 15 rebounds and 9 assists.
The Blazers fought back with a 40-18 run, led by Damian Lillard’s 36 points — including 7-14 from three — to go with 6 assists and 6 rebounds — the Wolves’ lead shrunk to just five points. The Wolves would answer with an 18 point run of their own which the Blazers tried to answer, but the early lead stood to see the Wolves return to .500 at 13-13.
The Wolves scored 72 points in the paint, a season-high. Nikola Pekovic crushed — Pek Smashed, if you will — the Portland front line of Robin Lopez, LaMarcus Aldridge (as well as backups Joel Freeland and Meyers Leonard) for a season-high 30 points and 9 rebounds on 14-19 shots.
Wolves Head Coach Rick Adelman noted in his post game press conference that the ball movement — evidenced by the Wolves 27 assists on 46 shots — helped Pek take advantage of the extra attention Love drew from the Blazers’ defense. But Pek was noticeably more aggressive than usual, showing his turnaround hook and a nice 16-foot jumper from the top of the key.
Kevin Martin returned to the lineup and made eight of fifteen shots, finishing with 22 points.
The Blazers shot 40 three-point shots making 35%.
The Wolves out-rebounded the Blazers 53-45.
Adelman singled out Alexey Shved (4 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds, with a steal) for his positive play, lamented not being able to get him in in the second half, and hinted he might just be waking up.
None too soon, as Chase Budinger was approved to fully participate in practice and should return soon.
The Wolves head to Los Angeles to play the Lakers and the Clippers in a back-to-back that mirrors their visit to California earlier this season. Game time from Staples Center is scheduled for 9:30 CST.
See the Wolves in LA by getting Lakers tickets here.