LA: Key Plays Down the Stretch, Looking for the Blow-Out
Wesley Matthews Postgame
MINNEAPOLIS – The Portland Trail Blazers had this game. They were up on the Minnesota Timberwolves 100-98 with 6.7 remaining in the contest and the Trail Blazers had their best player going to the line for two.
“I felt really good about it,” LaMarcus Aldridge said referring to the chance to get this game over with.
His first free throw attempt clanked the back of the iron, giving the Timberwolves life who were on a 14-5 run at the time.
“It should have been in. Seriously,” Aldridge said.
The next free throw was important because it meant the Timberwolves would have to shoot a three to tie the game, assuming Aldridge makes the free throw. He couldn't miss two in a row on this stage, right?
“When the first one didn't go in, I was like, 'Don't overcompensate on this one,' but I did. I shot it too hard,” Aldridge said as he took you inside his mind after missing the second free throw.
Aldridge had a made a huge defensive stop with 7.9 second left when he blocked Ricky Rubio's jumper that would have tied the game at 100. Now, it was time for the two-time All-Star to come through on the defensive end again.
Down two and fresh from a 20-second timeout with 5.9 seconds remaining, Dante Cunningham would receive the ball after already pouring in 23 points off of 11-of-16 from the field. Aldridge closed out on the mid-range specialist, forcing him to put the ball on the floor before taking an 18-footer, something he's not accustomed to doing.
The shot missed badly to the left barely grazing the rim, earning the Trail Blazers a 100-98 victory over the Timberwolves as they start this six-game road trip on a positive note.
Aldridge said that's exactly how he wanted to play his former teammate Cunningham.
“I know Dante and he's definitely a pick-and-pop guy that likes to catch and shoot,” he said. “He can dribble, but that's not his game. My whole thing was to close out and make him take a shot with my hands in his face by running out. When he did that, I knew we had a chance.”
Aldridge wasn't just content on just making another defensive stop, he wanted a call in that situation, too.
“He traveled” he said with a chuckle. He traveled then he took a dribble.”
This road win was the Trail Blazers' first victory outside the Rose Garden in four tries. Their last road win was Jan. 5 against this very team.
They committed a season-high 28 turnovers, but their season-high 58 percent from the field off-set that. Every Trail Blazers shot 50 percent or higher from the floor with the exception of Will Barton who was 1-for-4.
“We had a rhythm on offense tonight,” Damian Lillard said after a 21-point, six assists performance. “Our offense is what carried us tonight despite all the turnovers we committed. We got to clean that up, but I'm happy we got the win.”
Wesley Matthews was a game-time decision entering tonight and he decided to give it a go after pre-game warmups. Thankfully for the Trail Blazers he did. He wasn't anywhere near 100 percent but he played like it providing 22 points and five assists.
He spoke about his ankle.
“It felt alright,” Matthews said. “I had a lot of adrenaline, emotions. I didn't really think about it too much. I was heavily casted and taped up.”
Midway through the first, Nicolas Batum reaggravated his right wrist while blocking Andrei Kirilenko's layup in transition. The next timeout, Batum would sit and receive treatment from team trainer Jay Jensen. When he returned, after every shot he took and whenever he had to use his hands to push off, you saw him grimacing and massaging his wrist.
He ended the game with four points, three rebounds and two assists.
“It's not getting better,” Batum said after the game. “The MRI says it's negative but everyday I'm getting worse. I just want to know what's going on.”
The good news for Batum, Matthews, Ronnie Price and Sasha Pavlovic is that their next game isn't until Wednesday against Dallas, allowing much-needed rest. But in the meantime, the Trail Blazers will take this game.
After all, it is a win.
“A win is a win no matter how you do it,” Aldridge said. “I'll take it.”