Timberwolves-Trail Blazers Preview
On the day LaMarcus Aldridge learned he wasn’t named an All-Star starter, the power forward put together one of the best performances of his career.
Now Aldridge will try to continue his recent tear in a matchup with one of the frontcourt players chosen ahead of him.
Aldridge looks to lead the Portland Trail Blazers to their 15th win in 16 home meetings with Minnesota as they take on All-Star starter Kevin Love and the Timberwolves on Saturday night.
Despite leading Portland (32-11) with career highs of 24.7 points and 11.6 rebounds per game, Aldridge finished fifth in fan voting among Western Conference frontcourt players.
Love, Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin will make up the West’s starting frontcourt in New Orleans, with Aldridge likely to be selected as a reserve by the league’s coaches next week.
While he appeared to take out his frustration by scoring a career-high 44 points against Denver on Thursday, Aldridge said that wasn’t the case after leading the Blazers to a 110-105 come-from-behind win.
”It was nothing about that,” he said. ”We lost two games and we needed this win.”
Still, Aldridge scored his team’s final 15 points as the Blazers avoided their first three-game losing streak of the season.
The two-time All-Star will try to extend one of the best stretches of his career after averaging 31.3 points and 15.3 rebounds in his last six games. He’s also scored 33.3 per game over Portland’s four-game home winning streak.
”What can you say? He’s an MVP candidate. Best power forward in the game,” said Wesley Matthews, who added 24 points in Thursday’s win.
Love might have something to say about that after leap-frogging Houston’s Dwight Howard in the final balloting to earn the first starting nod of his career. He ranks among the NBA leaders with 25.0 points and 13.0 rebounds per game while averaging a career-high 4.2 assists.
”It means a lot. It doesn’t go unnoticed,” said Love, the franchise’s first All-Star starter since Kevin Garnett in 2007.
The three-time All-Star celebrated by putting up 26 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists despite turning his left ankle in the third quarter of Friday’s 121-120 victory at Golden State – Minnesota’s first in a game decided by four points or fewer after losing its first 11.
Kevin Martin added 26 points despite playing with a cut on his right pinkie and hit a jumper with 8.4 seconds left as the Timberwolves (21-21) won their second in a row to open a four-game trip. They also matched a season high with their third straight win overall.
When he’s been healthy, Love has come up big against the Blazers with 30.0 points per game and 13-of-28 shooting from 3-point range in his last five meetings.
He finished with 29 points, 15 boards, nine assists and four 3s in a 120-109 win over visiting Portland on Dec. 18 after missing the final three matchups in 2012-13 because of a broken shooting hand.
Nikola Pekovic contributed 30 points on 14-of-19 shooting in that contest as Minnesota outscored the Blazers 72-34 in the paint and led by as many as 32. The center is averaging 22.3 points and 12.3 rebounds in his last three games heading into this meeting.
Aldridge had 15 points and 14 rebounds while missing 15 of 22 shots in last month’s loss. He’s scored 17 or fewer in four of his last five against the Timberwolves.
Damian Lillard, however, has averaged 25.8 points while shooting 16 for 34 from 3-point range in five games in this series.
The Blazers have won 21 of the last 24 meetings overall.