Tuesday, February 5, 2013
MINNEAPOLIS — With Portland on the verge of a massive collapse, LaMarcus Aldridge leaped to swat away Minnesota’s comeback.
The Trail Blazers started their six-game road trip by remedying a sloppy performance with a large dose of their All-Star big man.
Aldridge had 25 points, 13 rebounds and a blocked shot in the closing seconds to help the Blazers hang on to beat the Timberwolves 100-98 on Monday night for their fifth win in their last seven games.
“Teams are going to pressure us, so I think it’s learning,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “But winning on the road is not easy and we needed this one.”
Wes Matthews scored 22 points and Damian Lillard added 21, but they each had five of Portland’s 28 turnovers, the most in regulation by any NBA team all season. The Blazers never trailed in the game and led by 19 points with 12 minutes left, but the Wolves went to a small lineup and scored on 20 of their first 22 possessions in the fourth quarter until misfiring on their final two.
Lillard had two turnovers in the last 63 seconds, and the second one turned into a fast-break layup for J.J. Barea that cut the lead to 97-96 with 36.9 seconds left.
Aldridge calmly swished a 21-footer, and Dante Cunningham answered with a dunk on the other end. Luke Babbitt missed one of two free throws, giving the Wolves a chance to tie the game. Aldridge walled off the pick-and-roll with Nikola Pekovic, followed Ricky Rubio across the court and deflected his fade-away with 7.9 seconds left.
Asked to describe his clutch shot and block, Aldridge said, “I’ll go defense first, because defense wins games.” He added: “He tried to lull me to sleep, and I kind of waited on it and blocked it.”
Aldridge missed two free throws on the other end, but Cunningham’s 18-foot tying attempt fell short.
“Even though we turned the ball over a lot, we let it go. We didn’t let it bother us,” Lillard said. “We just stayed in the moment and when it came time to get the job done and win the game, we did.”
Rubio had 10 of his career-high-tying 14 assists in the fourth quarter and finished with 15 points in 34 minutes, both season highs. Cunningham scored a career-high 23 points on 11 for 17 shooting, and Barea added 17 points.
“If we play like that, we can play with anybody,” Pekovic said. “It was great that at the end we got a chance to tie the game, but we didn’t and probably that’s some way of punishment. We didn’t play hard for 48 minutes.”
Aldridge was 12 for 17 from the field. All but one of his makes were 15-foot jumpers or further out.
Matthews has 78 points in three games against the Wolves this season. He hurt his right ankle on Friday at Utah and was still too sore to play in the rematch against the Jazz on Saturday, but he bounced back just fine.
“The only thing we have to do is bring the energy. Today it was awful in the first quarter. Nobody had any,” Rubio said.
Nicolas Batum, his sore right wrist clearly still bothering him, finished with four points and a team-high seven turnovers. He has only 39 points in his last five games, less than half of his season average of nearly 16 points per game.
“If he or the trainer says he can’t play, then I can’t play him, but he’s very important to what we do,” Stotts said.
This was only the second time in 20 games all season that Rubio reached double-digit points. No longer on a minutes limit, Rubio is averaging 11.2 points and shooting 46.3 percent in his last five games.
Andrei Kirilenko strained his right quadriceps and left for the locker room late in the second quarter. He had two points in 14 minutes for the Wolves but did not return, yet another injury — whether major or mild — to a key part of what was positioned to be a playoff team this spring for the first time in nine years.
The Wolves lost for the 12th time in their last 14 games.
“You get too far down and it’s too hard to come back,” coach Rick Adelman said. “Everything’s got to be perfect to come back and win that game.”
NOTES: Matthews passed Rasheed Wallace and Rudy Fernandez to take eighth place on Portland’s all-time list with 374 made 3-pointers. Timberwolves assistant coach Terry Porter is the leader with 773. ... Cunningham’s streak of 10 straight field goals made ended in the second quarter. Kevin Garnett and Felton Spencer share the team record with 13. ... The Blazers have won 20 of their last 22 games against the Wolves. ... Minnesota’s bench outscored Portland’s 57-20.