Blazers reach a new low
Timberwolves come out strong for 122-110 win
Saturday, March 3, 2012
PORTLAND — Kevin Love had a season high. The Trail Blazers reached a season low.
Ricky Rubio had 12 assists. Portland just needed assistance.
The Timberwolves came out on fire. The Blazers, well, they can't seem to extinguish their own.
After falling to Minnesota 122-110 Saturday night, Portland (18-19) dropped below .500 for the first time all season. The team has now lost six of its last eight in the Rose Garden, an arena once considered nothing short of a safe house.
The Timberwolves got 40 points in the first quarter and 38 in the fourth — a combination that Blazers coach Nate McMillan likened to being "smacked upside the head."
"You give up a 40-point quarter in your building and we get smacked around before we start to realize that we're in a ball game," McMillan said. "You can't flip a switch."
Saturday was the second game in a row in which an A+ effort from an A-list player ultimately victimized Portland. Two nights removed from LeBron James' 38-point, 11-rebound, six-assist performance, Love dropped a season-high 42 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and hit five of his eight 3-pointers.
Contained in years past when playing the Rose Garden, the All-Star power forward tripled LaMarcus Aldridge's point total (14) and posted 13 points and five rebounds in the fourth quarter alone.
In other words, fans may not have cheered the Lake Oswego so vigorously before the game had they known what was to follow.
"He's been like that all season honestly. Look at his numbers he puts up nightly," Blazers center Joel Przybilla said of Love. "I'm sure being back home definitely made him want to play well. But he's a special player."
Yet despite Love's dominance, Portland and Minnesota were still tied at one point in the fourth quarter.
The resurgence began in the first half, when Gerald Wallace reduced a 12-point deficit to one by halftime. Ten of the Blazer forward's 25 points came in the second quarter, during which Wallace was clearly inspired.
"I'm tired of losing, man. I had to do something to help my team," Wallace said. "As a whole, we need to get on the same train and get this thing moving before the station shuts down on us."
The Blazers briefly took the lead in the third quarter and tied the score at 84-84 early in the fourth. But a 20-8 run by Minnesota (19-19) followed, and Portland never threatened again. Aldridge, who fouled out for the first time all season, was held to 14 points in 33 minutes.
The loss dips the Blazers to 10th place in the Western Conference, two games behind Denver for the final playoff spot. The Timberwolves, meanwhile, leapfrogged Portland for the ninth spot.
What's particularly troubling for the Blazers, however, is the fact that a seven-game road trip will follow Monday's game against the Hornets — a trip that includes six opponents that sit at .500 or better, including the Thunder and Bulls, each of whom have the best record in their respective conferences.
Saturday, Blazers guard Wesley Matthews was asked if this most recent defeat was a low point. He didn't take much time before responding.
"Yeah. Every loss is a low point. This hurts even more because we gave ourselves a cushion," Matthews said. "We got one more game at home, which hasn't been guaranteed. We started off as a good home team, and we messed that up. We got one more at home before we hit this road trip, where we haven't been so hot."
Nicolas Batum led Portland with 29 points while Jamal Crawford added 23. Former Blazer Martell Webster had 21 for the Timberwolves, while Rubio had six points to go along with his 12 assists.