Blazers 119, Timberwolves 106: Reaction and analysis
PORTLAND — LaMarcus Aldridge will probably be able to deal with not making the playoffs. But it would have been awfully hard for him cope if he couldn’t offer Kevin Love a little payback.
The last time Minnesota came to the Rose Garden, Love racked up 42 points and 10 rebounds while treating Aldridge like a sparring partner. This time, it was Aldridge who came out swinging.
The Trail Blazers beat the Timberwolves 119-106 Sunday as six Portland players scored in double digits. Aldridge figured most prominently in the stat sheet, scoring 26 points on 10-of-17 shooting while collecting eight rebounds. But his more personal motivation became evident when he and Love engaged in a brief shoving match in the second quarter. The game’s subplot had suddenly become the primary storyline.
“That was just two guys going hard,” Aldridge said. “Two guys competing.”
Last year, Love earned the final spot on the Western Conference All-Star team, leaving Aldridge feeling snubbed again. And when Kevin last came to Portland, he tripled Aldridge’s scoring output.
And even though Love still managed 26 points and nine rebounds Sunday, for one game, he was clearly the second-best power forward on the court.
“That guy right there,” Nicolas Batum said when asked how the Blazers slowed Love Sunday, pointing to Aldridge. “He was being really aggressive.”
The Blazers led by by seven points at halftime and never let Minnesota (25-29) get closer than five. Then again, with JJ Barea, Darko Milicic, Nikola Pekovic and Ricky Rubio all out, the Timberwolves didn’t have a whole lot of support to make a run.
The Blazers (25-28) had plenty. Batum added 24 points while Wesley Matthews had 18. J.J. Hickson pitched in 15, Jamal Crawford had 12, and Raymond Felton fell two boards shy of a triple double — tallying 10 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds.
“L.A. (Aldridge) let me know (that he was close to a triple double),” said Felton, who had a 23-point, 11-assist, 10-rebound game with the Knicks last year. “He told me to go grab two more rebounds.”
Love and Aldridge, it turned out, weren’t the sole contributors to any on-court friction Sunday.
On the Blazers’ final possession, with the shot clock being about one second ahead of the game clock, Batum flipped up a one-footer that fell through the net. Thinking it was an unsportsmanlike move, Minnesota guard Wayne Ellington threw the ball off of Batum’s rear end in protest.
Batum said after the game that he didn’t mean to score, that he was just casually tossing the ball up as the shot clock expired. Blazers interim coach Kaleb Canales, meanwhile, had a message for him after the game.
“He told me ‘don’t do that again,'” said Batum, who apologized for the play. “But that’s not me. I would never do something like that on purpose.”
Earlier in the game, Batum was called for a strange offensive goaltending call when he dunked the ball, only to have it bounce off his head and go back up through the rim before it fallen through the net.
Batum said the ref talked to him and told him he only sees that play every five years or so. Still, it did give him some material to joke with.
“I felt like they owed me two points,” he said. “That’s why I shot it at the end.”