Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 11/24/12
PORTLAND -- Guards Wesley Matthews and Damian Lillard were too much for Minnesota on Friday night, combining for 58 points in Portland's 103-95 victory at the Rose Garden. Matthews scored a season-high 30 points and Lillard added 28 for the Trail Blazers (6-6), who begin a seven-game road trip Sunday at Brooklyn. Kevin Love had 24 points and 13 rebounds for the Timberwolves (5-6), who lost their fourth straight game. But it was at the defensive end that coach Terry Stotts saw progress. "I saw an intensity in our guys' faces about how important (defense) was," he said. "I've seen it in spots this season, but the second half, we sustained it for a long period of time." Portland entered the game last in the NBA in opponents' scoring (102.9) and field-goal percentage (.501). Minnesota shot .410 for the game to the Blazers' .538. Over the final three quarters, the Timberwolves scored 62 points and shot 20-for-57 (.351). "We've been embarrassed," Matthews said, "with teams shooting 50 percent on us and the (124-87) thumping we took in Phoenix (Wednesday night). "(The Suns) are all right. They have some players, but we don't feel like we should ever lose like that to everybody." Stotts demanded defensive performance at Friday's shootaround. "We're all professionals," Matthews said. "We've played basketball for a long time. It still takes calling out. That's what coach (Stotts) did, and everybody responded." Minnesota shot 13-for-21 in rolling to a 33-28 lead after one quarter. The Timberwolves extended the margin to 41-28 before Portland began to close the gap, getting to within 55-50 at the half. Despite All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge drawing his fifth foul with 6:50 remaining in the third quarter and departing, the Blazers were able to take the lead at 71-69 on Lillard's 3-point shot with 3:30 left in the period. Lillard hit another 3-pointer to bring Portland even at 78-78, and Nicolas Batum buried another 3-pointer from beyond the arc just before the buzzer sounded to give the Blazers an 81-78 advantage entering the fourth quarter. Portland scored the first seven points of the quarter to hike its lead to 88-78 with nine minutes to play, and when Matthews drilled a 3 from the corner, the Blazers were on top 95-84 with 6:16 left. Love's three free throws brought Minnesota to within 97-91 with 3:30 remaining, but Matthews drained a turnaround 20-footer to signal it was the Blazers' night, not the Timberwolves'. "We just didn't defend well enough," Minnesota coach Rick Adelman said. The Blazers "shot the heck out of the ball, and we didn't finish plays at the basket." NOTES: The Timberwolves lost despite a huge edge at the foul line -- 28-for-37 to the Blazers' 8 for 18. ... Minnesota coach Rick Adelman on Lillard: "He's probably the best rookie in the league right now." ... J.J. Hickson returned to Portland's starting lineup at center after missing Wednesday's 114-87 loss at Phoenix with a shoulder injury. Hickson contributed 14 points and 13 rebounds for his sixth double-double of the season. ... Portland rookie forward Victor Claver (elbow) did not dress. ... Minnesota's Ricky Rubio, who missed the second half of last season following knee surgery, worked out hard before Friday night's game with no problems. The Timberwolves are hopeful the second-year point guard will return to action in a few weeks. "He's doing good," coach Rick Adelman said. "He's been able to go through all the (noncontact) drills. He has to see the doctor one more time, and maybe after this trip we can get him on the practice floor. It's just going to take him some time to get his conditioning and timing down."
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