Blazers rip through Timberwolves in blowout victory
PORTLAND — Everything worked.
LaMarcus Aldridge’s jump shot sang and sank. Andre Miller’s touch was soft and true. And the Portland Trail Blazers could have lived without either during a 116-93 blowout victory of the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday evening at the Rose Garden before a sold-out crowd of 20,306.
On a night when every player on Portland’s roster except one recorded minutes and scored points, the Blazers showed off all the attributes of their talented, loaded lineup.
How on was Portland?
Star guard Brandon Roy scored just two points and played less than 26 minutes, and the Blazers still won by 23.
“What we wanted to do is be about business. Go out and try to work to improve and get better” Blazers coach Nate McMillan said. “Build off the last (win) against San Antonio and play the game the right way.”
Granted, the Blazers (4-3) faced a Timberwolves (1-6) squad considered to be among the worst in the NBA.
But after an early season filled with starts and stops, Portland appeared to relish the opportunity to play free, easy basketball that was as promising as it was thrilling.
Miller scored a game- and season-high 21 points, and he ignited a Blazers offense that shot 50 percent (41 of 82) from the floor and 46.7 percent (7 of 15) behind the 3-point line.
McMillan praised Miller’s work, saying the veteran point guard “sees the floor and he’s delivering the ball.”
Miller said he is simply surrounded by good players who deserve the ball.
Aldridge added 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Blazers. Reserve Travis Outlaw poured in 19 points, leading a Portland bench that outscored the Timberwolves 57-39 and keyed the Blazers’ rout.
The Blazers also dominated Minnesota in key categories such as rebounds (49-39), assists (35-19) and fast-break points (21-8).
“We had 35 assists tonight,” McMillan said. “That’s always a good sign when the team is moving the ball, because it will get everybody involved.”
Nathan Jawai topped the Timberwolves with 16 points while Ryan Gomes added 15.
Minnesota coach Kurt Rambis said his squad struggled with matchup problems against a Blazers team that is playing a single, trust-filled unit.
“They’ve been together long enough that they understand each other as teammates, and how to get the ball to what people at the right time,” Rambis said.
The Blazers jumped out to a 24-17 first-quarter advantage, led by seven quick points apiece from Miller and Aldridge.
As Miller picked the Timberwolves’ defense apart, Aldridge established a strong inside scoring presence for which Minnesota had no counter.
“When (center) Greg (Oden) and I play as well as we did tonight, I think it takes the pressure of all the guards to make a lot of plays,” Aldridge said. “And I think teams double team us, and then (we) get open shots in the corner.”
Following Miller and Aldridge’s early scoring barrage, Portland’s reserves then took their shot at the Timberwolves.
Jerryd Bayless, Rudy Fernandez, Martell Webster and Outlaw all played strong, energized basketball.
Portland ran the court in a free, up-tempo style largely unseen during the team’s first six games of the season. But the team also scrapped, turning steals and rebounds into 16 first-half fast-break points. In addition, the Blazers were rewarded with 20 free throw attempts and recorded 19 assists during the first two quarters — strong signs that Portland was dictating the action rather than settling for jump shots.
McMillan said he was looking for better ball movement and improved spacing from the Blazers’ second unit, and he got it.
“I thought it was better with them tonight,” McMillan said.
And Portland’s second unit stayed energized in the third quarter. Bayless, Fernandez, Webster, Outlaw and Joel Przybilla combined tight defense with a quick-strike offensive approach in which the ball was swung swiftly around the perimeter until an open shooter was found.
“I think they’ll get better as they play together more,” McMillan said.
The Blazers earned their largest margin of victory and highest point total of the season. … Portland shot 90 percent (27 of 30) from the foul line. The Blazers came into the game shooting a league-best 83 percent from the stripe. … Portland rookie forward Dante Cunningham made his regular-season debut. Cunningham scored six points in 6:17.
Best Blazer: Andre Miller scored a game- and season-high 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting, and added four rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Big numbers: The Blazers shot 50 percent from the floor, 46.7 percent behind the 3-point line and 90 percent from the foul line.
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