Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 2/4/13
MINNEAPOLIS -- Wes Matthews played on a sore ankle but looked like Superman. LaMarcus Aldridge dominated from start to finish. The Timberwolves? They made every offensive possession an adventure in the first three quarters. The Trail Blazers improved to 3-0 against the Timberwolves this season with a 100-98 victory Monday at Target Center in a game that was a breeze for the first three quarters and a nailbiter down the stretch. The Wolves, meanwhile, carried no momentum over from Saturday's blowout victory over New Orleans. Aldridge banged his way to 25 points and 13 rebounds, Matthews hit 4 of 8 3-pointers on the way to 22 points and the Blazers got 21 from rookie Damian Lillard in their third victory in the past four games. The Blazers outrebounded the Wolves 39-29. But still, with Dante Cunningham scoring 17 fourth-quarter points, the Wolves pulled to one point twice in the closing moments and were within two with the ball late, but Cunningham's jumper came up short. The Wolves were led by Cunningham's 23 points. J.J. Barea had 17 and Ricky Rubio 15. Down 17 late, the Wolves came back. With Cunningham scoring 10 points, the Wolves put together a 20-6 run to pull to 97-94 on Nikola Pekovic's layup with 52. 1 seconds left. At the other end of the court, Cunningham got a steal, which resulted in Barea's fast-break layup with 36.9 seconds left that made it 97-96. Aldridge hit a 21-foot jumper, then Cunningham scored his 16th and 17th points of the quarter with a dunk with 21 seconds left to make it a one point game again. Luke Babbitt hit one of two free throws to make it a two-point game, then Aldridge blocked Rubio's shot. But Aldridge missed two free throws with 6.7 seconds left. So, down two, the Wolves had a final chance but came up short. The Blazers' shooting overcame 28 turnovers, and the 33 points the Wolves scored as a result kept them in the game. Indeed, the Wolves had the edge in points off turnovers, points in the paint and points on the break. But Portland's shooting was just too much. The Blazers were 41 of 70 from the field, 7 of 18 on 3-pointers. In three victories over Minnesota this season, the Blazers have made 34 of 67) from 3-point range. The Wolves, who broke a six-game losing streak with a big victory Saturday, lost for the 12th time in 14 games. The Blazers didn't waste any time, coming out in the first quarter and shooting 55 percent, including 3 of 6 three-pointers, all by Matthews. With the Wolves struggling to hit their shots, Matthews had eight points and Aldridge nine as the Blazers pushed to a 10-point lead before leading by seven entering the second half. Both Aldridge and Matthews stayed hot as that lead grew to 11 at the half, which ended with Aldridge already holding a double-double and the Wolves shooting just 38 percent from the field. For a few moments in the third quarter, the Wolves looked like they were ready to make a game of it. Down 12, they whittled Portland's lead to three on two free throws by Rubio with 5:29 left in the quarter. But J.J. Hickson had six points, Aldridge and Nolan Smith five each in a 20-4 run to end the quarter that put the Blazers lead at 77-58 entering the fourth. NOTES: Wolves forward Andrei Kirilenko left the game late in the first half with a right quad strain. ... Though he was not 100 percent, Matthews returned from an injured right ankle to start Monday. He missed just one game. "The pain is going down a lot," said Matthews, who had the ankle heavily wrapped. "(There are) still certain movements that I'm sure will irritate it." Neither Ronnie Price (right ankle) nor Sasha Pavlovic (left foot) played for Portland. ... Wolves coach Rick Adelman likes how his guards have settled into a rotation, with Luke Ridnour and Rubio starting, and Barea and Alexey Shved coming off the bench. However, he wants Ridnour and Shved to do more ball-handling. ... NBA commissioner David Stern will be in Minneapolis for Wednesday's game between the Wolves and the San Antonio Spurs. ... The Wolves are leaning toward keeping both Mickael Gelabale and Chris Johnson, whose 10-day contracts are up Thursday, for the rest of the season. If both are kept, one roster spot would have to be created.
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