Blazers’ bench drives Portland past Timberwolves

34-15 advantage yields 115-104 victory

By Erik Gundersen, Columbian Trail Blazers Writer



PORTLAND — Last season, the Portland Trail Blazers posted 33 victories.

On Saturday night, the Blazers recorded their 33rd win of the 2013-14 season — and it came on Jan. 24.

Behind a big night for their bench, the Blazers beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 115-104 Saturday ath Moda Center.

The Timberwolves were on the second night of a back-to-back and several players — including Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love — sustained injuries but managed to suit up.

“It was tough,” Love said. “This morning, it was one of those times when you jump out of bed and you think ‘I don’t know how I’m going to play tonight.’ But you muster up the energy.”

The Blazers were beaten soundly in Minnesota in December on a fourth game in five nights. Thomas Robinson, who scored six points and grabbed six rebounds off the bench, doesn’t believe in any excuses.

“We didn’t complain about being tired when they whooped us up there,” he said.

The Blazers went 4 for 16 on 3-pointers, with their attempts and makes both well below their season averages.

It was the Timberwolves who were shooting the lights out from the three-point line going 9 for 22 from beyond the arc.

The Blazers had six players in double-figures and rebounds.

Nicolas Batum got the Blazers going early, scoring 11 of his 13 points in the first quarter. But the Blazers struggled to stop Minnesota, falling behind by two after the first quarter.

“Our bench was terrific,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “Our reserves were very good in both halves and made a difference in both halves — the energy, just a little bit of everything.”

Led by Mo Williams, the Blazers went on a 16-4 run to start the second quarter and pushed their lead up to as many as 12 points. Portland’s bench outscored Minnesota’s 34-15.

The fast-breaking affair played into the hands of the speedy Williams, who had 16 points and six assists.

C.J. McCollum scored six points. Joel Freeland also grabbed six rebounds.

Wesley Matthews, who was on the court with the four reserves for much of the game, also had a solid night, scoring 18 points to help support the Blazers.

The duo that did the damage for the Timberwolves was guard Kevin Martin and center Nikola Pekovic. Martin had 20 points at halftime and finished with 30, while Pekovic scored 23.

LaMarcus Aldridge joked after the game that the match-up between him and Kevin Love was a bit of letdown. But he did feel like both players made each other work.

“I thought both guys competed,” Aldridge said. “I felt a little tired. I could tell he was tired on a back-to-back, but I thought both guys played hard.”

Aldridge didn’t repeat another spectacular performance, but he was solid, finishing with 21 points and six rebounds on 9-of-21 shooting.

Love struggled a bit more. The Lake Oswego native went 4 for 12 from the field and scored 15 points to go along with 13 rebounds.

The Blazers will be on the other end of a back-to-back when they play the Golden State Warriors Sunday night.

The previous match-up between the two teams resulted in two suspensions — for Williams and Golden State’s Andrew Bogut — and three fines after both teams had an altercation.

When asked if the Blazers and Warriors have any bad blood between them, Damian Lillard was brief but wore a smile on his face.

“Might be,” he said. “But we’re going down there to win another game, and it’s going to be what’s going to be.”

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