Trail Blazers stay hot with road win over Timberwolves

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

MINNEAPOLIS -- This is something, Wes Matthews said, that the Portland Trailblazers have gotten used to.
Winning, that is. Either at home, where the Blazers are 11-4, or on the road. With their 102-97 win over Minnesota at Target Center on Saturday night, Portland ended a four-game trip that included three victories. The Blazers, winners of 10 of their last 13 games, are on a roll.
"We're getting used to winning," said Matthews, who had 26 points in a game that ended up a lot closer than it probably should have been. "We're accustomed to it. We have a swagger about us. We believe we're supposed to win."
Strange game. The Wolves (15-15) found out hours before the game that forward Kevin Love had re-broken a bone in his shooting hand and would be out for an extended stretch. Then Portland (18-15) spent three-plus quarters shooting the lights out, tying a franchise record with 16 three-pointers made in the process.
Down 21 points early in the fourth quarter, the Wolves, who got 18 fourth-quarter points from Derrick Williams, pulled to 96-94 on Williams' dunk with 1:19 left.
But LaMarcus Aldridge scored in the post and Matthews hit two free throws to put the game out of reach of a very banged-up Timberwolves team.
Matthews and Nicolas Batum each had 26 points for Portland. Rookie guard Damian Lillard had 20 and Aldridge had 14.
"I hope this game taught our guys a lesson," Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. "Because, for the first three quarters, we hung our heads. We didn't make shots, we didn't do things and we didn't compete. I don't care who is hurt, that's not who we are. The last nine minutes is how we have to play."
Injuries? Ricky Rubio missed his fourth game with a sore back. Love is out, and center Nikola Pekovic had 21 points and 14 rebounds when he had to leave in the third quarter with a hip injury.
And, for much of the game Portland took advantage.
Matthews (5 of 7 on three-pointers) and Batum (5 of 6) were each hot from the outside, as was Lillard, who had three three-pointers.
Up by 18 entering the fourth quarter, Luke Babbit hit a three-pointer in the first minute to put Portland up by 21. And then Portland, playing for the fourth time in five nights, might have gotten a bit lax.
The Wolves responded with a 33-14 run -- with Williams scoring 15 of those points -- to pull to two. At one point during that run, the Wolves held Portland without a field goal for more than four minutes.
But Minnesota couldn't get over the hump.
And as a result, the Blazers, who struggled on the road in December, are learning to win on the road.
"Tonight we pulled it through" Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. "It was a learning experience for us, giving up a lead. But I'm glad we were able to learn and still get the win. We had it rolling from the three-point line. Some of them were tough, some of them were wide open, some of them were execution, good passing. But if you shoot the three that well you should win by more than five."
But a win is a win, and the Blazers remain one of the hottest teams in the Western Conference.
"We can win on the road, we can finally win on the road," Batum said.
The Wolves? They have to figure out how to move forward without Love, at least for a while.
NOTES: An MRI revealed Love had re-fractured a metacarpal in his right hand. The injury occurred during the third quarter of the Wolves game in Denver Thursday. Love will see Dr. Andy Weiland, a specialist in New York, later this week. Then a course of action -- which could include surgery -- will be announced. ... Wolves G Ricky Rubio missed his fourth game with back spasms. If Rubio can practice hard Sunday and Monday, the Wolves hope he can return to action Tuesday against Atlanta. ... Saturday's game featured two of the top five rookie scorers in the league in Portland's Damian Lillard (first at 18.2 points per game) and Wolves guard Alexey Shved (fifth, 11.1). ... Aldridge has scored in double figures in 57 straight games.

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