Wolves knock off Portland
MINNEAPOLIS — Forward Kevin Love came one assist short of his first career triple-double and center Nikola Pekovic scored a season-high 30 points as the Timberwolves downed visiting Portland 120-109 Wednesday night at Target Center.
Love had 29 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists for the Wolves (13-13), who ended the Trail Blazers’ five-game winning streak.
The Wolves, up by 32 points in the second quarter and by 26 at halftime, struggled to close out the Blazers, who were playing for the fourth time in five nights.
Still, the victory ended the Wolves’ five-game losing streak to the Blazers (22-5), who entered the game with the best record in the NBA.
Down 32 points in the second quarter, the Blazers pulled to within 10 on center Joel Freeland’s layup with 3:34 left in the third quarter. But Love scored the next seven points for the Wolves, who ended the quarter on an 18-8 run to push the lead to 98-78.
Portland guard Damian Lillard scored a game-high 36 points, 26 coming after halftime. The Blazers had the clear momentum at the end, pulling within 114-109 on forward Nicolas Batum’s 3-pointer in the final minute.
Guard Kevin Martin scored 22 points and guard J.J. Barea came off the bench to record 10 points and five assists for the Wolves, who had lost 21 of 23 games to the Blazers entering Wednesday night.
Batum scored 20 and guard Wesley Matthews had 16 for Portland.
The Wolves opened the game moving the ball very well and attacking the middle, and Love was right in the middle of it. He had nine rebounds, five assists and six points in the first quarter, which the Wolves ended on an 11-4 run. The Wolves scored 26 of their 31 first-quarter points in the paint, with Pekovic scoring eight and Martin nine.
And then the second quarter happened. Love had 11 points as the Wolves went on a 20-6 run to go up 51-28. And the Wolves’ bench just kept it going, the run eventually stretching to 31-8 and the lead ballooning to 62-30 on Pekovic’s layup with 4:52 left in the half.
By the time the quarter ended, the Wolves led 69-43 and Love was two assists away from a triple-double.
Predictably, the Blazers came out firing in the third quarter. Lillard scored 17 points, and Minnesota’s lead shrank.
The Blazers got within 80-70 on Freeland’s lay-in. But the Wolves responded. Love scored seven points, Barea hit two 3-pointers and Martin one in an 18-8 run that pushed the lead back to 20 entering the fourth quarter.
Notes: In Tuesday’s victory in Cleveland, Portland G Damian Lillard became the first player to finish a game with at least 36 points, 10 assists, eight rebounds and eight 3-pointers since Jason Kidd on April 11, 1995. Tuesday he also became just the fourth player in the last 15 years to hit the go-ahead shot with less than 2 seconds left in the fourth quarter or overtime in consecutive games. ... Timberwolves F Chase Budinger, who had knee surgery Sept. 30 and has not played this season, was cleared for full-contact practice starting Thursday. Given that this is the second surgery on the knee in as many seasons, coach Rick Adelman said the team will be conservative in bringing him back. ... Both SG Kevin Martin (sore knee) and reserve F Dante Cunningham (turned ankle) played Wednesday.