Blazers pull through; McCollum plays key role
Portland Trail Blazers 117, MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES 110
Saturday night, Target Center, 17,506 announced attendance
Even without injured Kevin Love (bruised quad), Nikola Pekovic (ankle) and Kevin Martin (broken thumb), Minnesota hung with Portland for 3 1/2 quarter, but the Blazers playing their fourth road game in six days caught their second wind, made a blitz of shots in the fourth quarter and sewed up a 2-2 trip.
The Blazers outscored the T-Wolves 23-6 over a 7:30 span, most of that in the final period, to seize control.
WHAT IT MEANS
Portland is 36-15, third in the NBA Western Conference. Oklahoma City leads at 40-12. San Antonio is 2 1/2 games back at 37-14. Portland trails the Spurs by one game. The Blazers have a two-game lead on the Los Angeles Clippers (35-18) and Houston Rockets (34-17).
Portland's next three games are against OKC, LAC and San Antonio. The Thunder visit Moda Center on Tuesday. Portland goes to L.A. on Wednesday in their final game before the All-Star break. And the Blazers' first game after All-Star Weekend is at home on Feb. 19 versus the Spurs.
Rookie guard C.J. McCollum had his biggest game as a Blazer. He played 28 minutes and scored a personal-best 19 points. McCollum made 6 of 12 shots from the field and had three assists to go with four turnovers, plus two steals.
The extended playing time came largely because of early foul trouble on Damian Lillard and veteran backup point guard Earl Watson (and because guard Mo Williams missed his second game in a row tending to family matters).
LaMarcus Aldridge notched 10 of his 26 points in the third quarter. He was 12 of 16 from the field and added nine rebounds.
Wesley Matthews had 13 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter. He also had a team-high six assists.
Nicolas Batum scored 15 points.
Robin Lopez led Portland rebounders with 11.
Portland shot 48.8 percent from the field. Minnesota finished at 41.2 percent.
Lillard played less than seven minutes in the first half and scored only two points of his 14 points.
The Timberwolves fell to 24-27.
Love, Pekovic and Martin are averaging a combined 62.6 points and 25.7 rebounds per game. Love was scratched a few minutes before the game, after laboring the night before in a loss at New Orleans.
Point guard Ricky Rubio helped to pick up the slack, scoring a career-high 25 points, with nine assists. Corey Brewer had 26 points, Chase Budinger scored 19 and former Blazer forward Dante Cunningham got his first double-double of the season (14 points, 10 rebounds).
Minnesota won the scoring battle in the paint 52-28.
"[Portland] is a great offensive team. They shoot the heck out of it. Aldridge inside, and Lillard had an off night because of foul trouble, but they have a lot of weapons. It is really hard to contain them."
Rick Adelman, Timberwolves coach
"We were really counting on our bench tonight because I really wanted to rest the starters. They all played a lot of minutes last night ,and the first half the bench really gave us a boost."
Terry Stotts, Blazers coach
"We knew they would make this an energy game. We knew they were short-handed with Kevin Love and Kevin Martin out. We had to make sure that we stayed focused and made sure we don't tell ourselves 'Well, Kevin Love and Kevin Martin aren't playing, so this is going to be easy.'"
The Blazers play Oklahoma City at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Moda Center.