The Portland Trail Blazers had a five-game overall winning streak and a five-game road winning streak snapped Wednesday night in Minneapolis with a 120-109 loss to the Timberwolves at the Target Center.
The Trail Blazers looked like a team playing their fourth game in five nights, falling behind by as many as 32 before going into the halftime break trailing 69-43.
“Obviously the first half was terrible,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “Minnesota played terrific. They had everything going in transition. We gave up too much in the first half and dug too deep of a hole. I was pleased with the way we competed in the second half. We came back and made it a game. We cut it to 10 and they made the threes, but the first half was a tough one.”
Nothing the Trail Blazers defensively seemed to bother the Timberwolves, as they shot 59 percent from the field in the first half thanks in large part to going 27 of 34 on points in the paint in the first half.
“We let them get too many easy baskets,” said Damian Lillard. “In the first half I think they had 40 or 50 points in the paint. It wasn’t just them going past us, it was us letting them get out in transition, us not finding guys. They were comfortable doing what they do well and we didn’t take them out of their comfort zone and they scored a bunch of points.”
Portland would make a push to start the second half, cutting the lead to 10 with 3:33 to play in the third quarter. But the Timberwolves would finish the quarter on an 18-8 run to extend the lead to back to 19.
Despite the seemingly insurmountable lead, the Trail Blazers, particularly Lillard, refused to go down quietly. Lillard would score nine points, all on three-pointers, to help Portland cut the lead to five with 46 seconds to play. But Minnesota would close the game out with six-straight free throw makes between Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin to ice the 11-point victory.
“We got good looks, we had open shots, we made good plays.” said Lillard. “We just didn’t make the shots. When you’re not making shots you’ve got to find a way to get it done on the other end. By the time we started to actually get it done on that end and make some shots, we were digging ourselves out of a hole. That made it that much tougher. We fought back – I think we cut it to five. If we had done a better job in the first half we would have never been in that position. They deserved to win.”
Lillard finished with 36 points, two short of his career-high, on 13 of 24 shooting while adding six assists, six rebounds and three steals in 41 minutes.
Nicolas Batum ended the night with 20 points, six rebounds, three assists and two blocks in the losing effort.
LaMarcus Aldridge struggled from the field but still managed a double double of 15 points and 14 assists to go along with three assists and a steal.
“It was just one of those nights,” said Aldridge of his seven of 22 shooting performance. “Couldn’t throw a rock in a lake if I tried to, if I was standing in the water. It was just one of those nights where my legs weren’t under me and I couldn’t make any shots. Once you go down that path of not making shots, it just motivates you a little.”
Wesley Matthews rounded out Portland’s double-digit scorers with 16 points.
The Timberwolves were led by Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic, who combined for 59 points and 24 rebounds on 24 of 37 shooting.
“(Love) was looking like George Gervin passing the ball out there,” said Aldridge. “He definitely played great, he led his team tonight.”
With the loss, Portland finishes the four-game trip 3-1, though there was no celebration in the post-game locker room, with some players pointing out that, given the nature of the wins against the Cavaliers and Pistons, the the trip could have easily finished 1-3.
“We’ve got to grow up and continue to play like the hunted,” said Matthews, who described Portland’s record on the trip as a “mad” 3-1. “We’ve got to keep playing hungry, we’ve got to know that we’re going to get every team’s best shot. People are getting up to play against us and we’ve got to rise to the challenge. We’ve got to embrace the fact that our record is what it is and not just expect to win every game.”
After four games on the road in five nights, Portland now played their next four at home over the course of nine days, starting with the Pelicans at the Moda Center on Saturday. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 PM.