5 talking points from Minnesota Timberwolves vs Portland Trailblazers
The guy is plain right awesome. There was nothing that could faze him today. He has a swagger about himself that rubs on to his team-mates (in a good way) and there seems nothing that can faze him. Lillard was 11-17 shooting (4-8 from 3 pt range)and got 8 assists to his name. Couple that with zero turnover and you got yourself a hell of a game from your point guard. Lillard is large (6’3″) and has the acceleration of a certain Chris Paul while being built like Chauncey Billups. Yes, that’s scary and I would really be surprised if doesn’t end up as the rookie of the year.
He was Mr. Everything today.
The game was built up as the battle between two of the game’s finest young Power Forwards in Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge. Sadly for the fans it never really materialized into that. Both remained relatively quiet in respect to the high standards they normally set. Neither team allowed them to square off one-on one as both feared for their superstars getting into foul trouble. Pekovic was on Aldridge while it was on J.J. Hickson’s shoulder to keep Love under check.
Aldridge was in foul trouble from the get go, unable to keep Pekovic in control but the Timberwolves couldn’t take much advantage of that. Love on the other hand decided to force it down low and attempted only two 3 pointers of which he made none. It was certainly surprising as the inside-out game is one of the biggest strength of Love’s. His 16 trips to the free-throw line however made up for his poor FG% today.
The Minnesota team was re-built in the off season with good shooters like Chase Buddinger and Brandon Roy that would space out the offense. That would have been perfectly suited Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic who would have kept any team’s defense honest. Sadly neither of them are on the team right now. While Roy has to have to have another surgery on his already cartilage-less right knee, Chase Budinger is out for 3-4 with meniscus tear. Sadly, the Timberwolves have to start with Malcolm Lee at the off-guard, a complete offensive liability.
Then there is Derrick Williams, the 2nd overall pick in last year’s NBA draft. The last two games have seen him take the floor for a total of zero minutes. He has been ousted from the rotation by the gritty Dante Cunningham. Derrick Williams and the Timberwolves are both at a loss. Williams sees himself as a three while he can be best described as a stretch four. Whatever needs to be done, needs to be done quickly for the better of both sides or else he may end up as another member of Minnesota’s infamous lottery busts following in the steps of Corey Brewer, Jonny Flynn, Wes Johnson and others.
“Wes Matthews and [Damian] Lillard, they just couldn’t miss. Easy as that. They just couldn’t miss.”-Timberwolves All-Star forward Kevin Love
If Lillard was running rings around the Timberwolves, Wesley Mathews decided to put in the exclamation mark. Mathews’s was 12-17 for a game leading 30 points. While Kirilenko and Batum cancelled each other out, Mathews became the deciding factor in the game. The Timberwolves decided to pound the ball inside from the get-go and had both Aldridge and Hickson in early foul trouble and established an early 13 point lead. It was the shooting from Lillard and more noticeably Mathews that kept the home team in the game. A 13-0 run in the 3rd quarter in which Mathews was instrumental was enough to take the game away from the Wolves.
The Wolves are on a four game skid after opening 5-2 for the season. The team decidedly plays well in the first only to see their play drop off at an astronomical level in the second half. Over the last 3 1st halves The T-Wolves are averaging 54pts (49% FG 42% 3ptrs) 5 TO’s in the first half, in the 2nd halves 41pts (33% 21%) 8 TO’s.
Ever since the return of love they are 0-2. This I would largely attribute to the confusion that arises with Love now being the main weapon on offense and lack of practice time that Rick Adelmann has had so far with Love. The Wolves have failed to find a way to incorporate Kirilenko in the scheme of the offense.
This was a game against one of the most efficient offense in the NBA in Portland against the efficiently defensive Wolves. Sadly the Wolves defense seemed to be AWOL. The Wolves had a 37-18 advantage at the free-throw line and 47-33 rebounding advantage (including 17!!! offensive boards). The advantages that the Wolves had in the paint was nullified by the 3-point shooting from the Blazers (Portland 11-25, Minnesota 3-18).