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Match Review: NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves vs Portland Trailblazers

LOS ANGELES, CA – FEBRUARY 29: Ricky Rubio #9 of the Minnesota Timberwolves dribbles away from a fallen Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on February 29, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.

Coming into this game, Minnesota were fourth in the league in terms of points allowed, and Portland were 11th when it came to points scored, so it was sort of a battle between the Blazers’ offense and the Wolves’ defense. Come the end of the game, Portland had enhanced their reputation, while Minnesota have a lot to ponder over. Simply put, the injuries have taken a toll on their team, and they need Ricky Rubio back.

The only reason we are even talking about this game being a close one is because Minnesota pounded the glass. They out-rebounded the Blazers 47-33, and Pekovic was crazy on the offensive end, grabbing seven rebounds. A game of two halves, the Wolves took the first, while the Blazers completed a great comeback in the 2nd half, winning the game 103-95. Minnesota had a hard time of it in the 2nd half, as they failed to get any transition opportunities, and were very slow with the ball, while the Blazers backcourt completely dominated the game, exhibiting great versatility in their shooting, mixing great three-point shooting with very good mid-range jumpers.

Portland played with great fluency, a departure from previous seasons, as they adjust to a new coach, and an inexperienced roster. J.J. Hickson did a great job of attacking the basket, as he was the only guy in the Blazer’s ranks who had anything going offensively. However, Aldridge’s foul troubles kept him out of the game, giving the Wolves the chance to work the ball inside to Pekovic and Love. Repeatedly, they would either drive to the basket, looking for contact, and more often than not, get it they did.

They did get several second chances, thanks to their offensive rebounding. What the Wolves did well was play the ball inside, getting the Blazers’ big men in foul trouble, and then going to the free throw line. The reason the game was tight for long periods was the foul shots and bench scoring (22 points to the Blazers’ nine) that Minnesota were getting. Looking at offensive numbers, both teams attempted the same number of shots, Portland just made 10 more.

LONDON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 12: Gold medallists Andre Iguodala #9 of the United States, Kobe Bryant #10 of the United States, and Kevin Love #11 of the United States celebrate on the podium during the medal ceremony for the Men’s Basketball on Day 16 of the London 2012 Olympics Games at North Greenwich Arena on August 12, 2012 in London, England.

Kevin Love grew up in Portland, and his choice to play for UCLA in college was not well received. So, in his second game back from injury, he was given a hard time, both, by the fans who booed him relentlessly, and the Blazers’ frontcourt, who were very physical with him. He is yet to get his shooting touch back, but his effort on rebounding and intensity on the offense was admirable. Indicative of this was the third quarter skirmish he got into with Aldridge, both players completely frustrated with their offensive games, and not willing to give an inch. The double technicals issued changed the game, as from that point on (with over nine minutes left in the 3rd), Portland were much more decisive on the offense.

The Blazers’ have a very high scoring starting line up but both Aldridge and Batum had an off-day today. In stepped Matthews and Lillard. Matthews had a great game shooting the ball, and was pivotal in Portland, pulling away in the 4th quarter as he made a couple of crucial baskets, the three-pointer with 6:17 to go, and the turnaround fadeaway posting up against Ridnour that pushed the lead to 11 with a little under four minutes left. He was brilliant shooting from beyond the arc, and was very active on defense, getting four steals. However, the star of the game today was Damien Lillard, the rookie point guard who had the game of his short career so far. He ran the offense brilliantly, and worked the floor very well. His shooting was top notch, and for someone who has been having a slight issue with turnovers, he notched up eight assists without any turnovers. Lillard can be the star the Blazers are craving for, but lets not put him under pressure, not so soon.

Both teams are having an inconsistent season, and they will look to take positives from this game, the Wolves of slowly getting players back from injury and getting their game going, and the Blazers of working through a transitional year, and finding their feet in an up-tempo offense.

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