Point guards help Blazers sweep series with Timberwolves

Kerry Eggers, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

PORTLAND -- Except for the first three minutes, the Portland Trail Blazers went wire to wire in their 109-94 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday night at the Rose Garden.
Damian Lillard scored 24 points as Portland (27-31) rolled past the injury-ravaged Timberwolves for only the second win in 10 games.
It completed a four-game series sweep for Portland, which had jumped to big leads in the previous three matchups, then held on for dear life to secure victory.
In this one, Minnesota's last lead was at 6-4, and the Trail Blazers led by as many as 18 points in the second half.
"Tonight it started from (the first) jump ball," said Portland center J.J. Hickson, who collected 18 points and 16 rebounds. "We didn't let up, except for a couple of possessions in the fourth quarter. Coach (Terry Stotts) called timeout, we regrouped and finished the job."
The Blazers got major contributions off the bench from rookies Meyers Leonard (12 points, eight rebounds) and Victor Claver (10 points) and from Eric Maynor (seven points and a career-high 12 assists). It was the third game in a Portland uniform for Maynor, acquired at the trade deadline from Oklahoma City.
Maynor played a season-high 31 minutes, often pairing with another point guard, Lillard, in the backcourt.
"It's fun to have somebody else who sees everything that's going on on the floor," Lillard said. "Eric sees what I see. He's thinking what point guards think when they're bringing it up the floor. He's looking for guys in their spots.
"He probably should have had 15, 16 assists. He did a really good job of making plays for us."
Derrick Williams collected 23 points and eight rebounds for Minnesota (20-36), which has lost five in a row and 10 of its last 12 outings.
The Timberwolves were without their entire starting front line -- Nikola Pekovic, Kevin Love and Andrei Kirilenko -- because of injuries.
"We're just so thin because of all the injuries," said Minnesota coach Rick Adelman, who had only nine able bodies. "You go at it with the right attitude and keep busting your tail, eventually it's going to pay off. (The Timberwolves) competed the whole game, but (the Blazers) were just bigger and stronger. We need to get people back; we need some support."
The Blazers held a large advantage in rebounds (55-47), points in the paint (56-40) and assists (32-19).
Portland extended a seven-point halftime edge to 76-59 with four minutes left in the third quarter. The margin was 83-71 heading into the final period.
The Blazers closed the first quarter on a 12-4 run to go into the second period ahead 31-19. They took a 51-44 advantage into intermission, getting 11 points from Lillard, eight points and nine rebounds from Hickson and seven assists from Maynor.
Portland held the Timberwolves -- who got 14 points and five rebounds from Williams -- to 36.4 percent shooting in the first half.
NOTES: Hickson notched his 32nd double-double of the season. ... Maynor's 12 assists are second-most by an NBA reserve this season, behind only San Antonio's Manu Ginobili (15). Maynor also tied Lillard and Nicolas Batum for a Portland game high this season. ... Minnesota's Ricky Rubio flirted with his first career triple-double, finishing with 12 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. ... Minnesota's piecemeal starting lineup included front-liners Williams and Mickael Gelabale who had combined for 41 starts this season. ... Minnesota's Brandon Roy received a rousing standing ovation from the Rose Garden crowd during the first timeout. Roy, who spent his first five NBA seasons in Portland, said before the game he hopes to return to practice soon and "be ready to play again in a week or two." He underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Nov. 19 and has missed the last 50 games. "If he makes it back on the court, I'll make a judgment," Adelman said. "If he could do it, it would be great, but we'll have to see it in practice first."

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