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Staff report: Second quarter sets tone as Timberwolves hand Portland a loss a trip-ending defeat

The Minnesota Timberwolves, minus standout center Karl-Anthony Towns (knee) for the 12th game in a row, still had the firepower needed to handle the possibly road-weary Trail Blazers 116-102 in a Thursday night battle of NBA Western Conference second-tier teams at Minneapolis.

It wasn't as close as the final score might indicate. Portland was never close in the second half.

Andrew Wiggins scored 23 points to lead the T-Wolves, who outshot the Blazers from the field .494 to .365.

Damian Lillard paced Portland with 20 points, going 6 of 17 from the field and 3 of 10 on 3-pointers.

With the season nearly half-over, both clubs are on the outside looking in at a playoff berth. Minnesota improved to 15-22 while Portland fell to 16-23, and both are 1 1/2 games behind 16-20 San Antonio, which is eighth in the West.

The Blazers finished a five-game trip 2-3.

Portland's next game is against Eastern Conference-leading Milwaukee, 7 p.m. Saturday at Moda Center. The Bucks (33-6) have the best record in the NBA, but they will be facing their second game in two nights, after having played Friday at Sacramento.

Minnesota took control of Thursday's game in the second quarter and never looked back.

Former Blazer Shabazz Napier started at point guard and had nine points. Another ex-Blazer, forward Noah Vonleh, had eight off the bench.

Lillard, CJ McCollum, Hassan Whiteside, Anthony and Kent Bazemore started for the Blazers, who were coming off a late-game winning basket by Anthony (careeer-best 28 points) on Tuesday at Toronto.

Portland appeared to have some momentum from that come-from-behind victory in Canada and led 34-28 after one quarter,.

But Minnesota upped its defensive pressure and drive-and-kick offensive game in the second quarter and outscored the Blazers 31-13 to lead 59-47 — the same point deficit Portland faced after three quarters at Toronto.

Lillard had 12 points at the break, McCollum eight and Anthony and Whiteside six apiece. Wiggins led the T-Wovles with 14.

Minnesota had lost its most-recent outing, giving up an eight-point lead over the final eight minutes of a seven-point road loss to Memphis. So the Timberwolves came out strong to open the second half, and four minutes into the third quarter their lead had grown to 78-56.

Through three quarters, the lead was 100-74.

Whiteside finished with 15 points and a game-high 14 rebounds in 27 minutes. McCollum had 15 points.

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