Blazers hold off T’wolves
MINNEAPOLIS—With Portland on the verge of a massive collapse, LaMarcus Aldridge leaped to swat away Minnesota’s comeback.
The Trail Blazers started their six-game road trip by remedying a sloppy performance with a large dose of their all-star big man.
“Teams are going to pressure us, so I think it’s learning,” said Portland coach Terry Stotts.
“But winning on the road is not easy and we needed this one.”
Wes Matthews scored 22 points and Damon Lillard added 21, but they each had five of Portland’s 28 turnovers—the most in regulation time by any NBA team all season.
The Blazers never trailed in the game and led by 19 points with 12 minutes left. But the ’Wolves went to a small lineup and scored on 20 of their first 22 possessions in the fourth quarter until misfiring on their final two.
Lillard had two turnovers in the last 63 seconds—and the second one turned into a fast-break lay-up for J.J. Barea that cut the lead to 97-96 with 36.9 seconds left.
Aldridge calmly swished a 21-footer but Dante Cunningham answered with a dunk on the other end. Luke Babbitt then missed one of two free throws, giving the ’Wolves a chance to tie the game.
Aldridge walled off the pick-and-roll with Nikola Pekovic, followed Ricky Rubio across the court, and deflected his fade-away with 7.9 seconds left.
Asked to describe his clutch shot and block, Aldridge replied, “I’ll go defence first because defence wins games.”
He added: “He tried to lull me to sleep, and I kind of waited on it and blocked it.”
Aldridge missed two free throws on the other end, but Cunningham’s 18-foot tying attempt fell short.
“Even though we turned the ball over a lot, we let it go. We didn’t let it bother us,” Lillard said.
“We just stayed in the moment and when it came time to get the job done and win the game, we did,” he reasoned.
Elsewhere in the NBA, Philadelphia beat Orlando 78-61, Washington downed the L.A. Clippers 98-90, Indiana upended Chicago 111-101, and New York bounced Detroit 99-85.
Miami shaded Charlotte 99-94, Oklahoma City beat Dallas 112-91, and Utah downed Sacramento 98-19 (OT).