Wolves miss out on needed win in Portland
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — LaMarcus Aldridge will keep the words he had with Minnesota’s Kevin Love to himself.
The two All-Stars jawed at times on Sunday night, when both scored 26 points but Aldridge’s Trail Blazers came out on top, 119-106.
“It was just two guys going hard,” the diplomatic Aldridge said.
Love also had nine rebounds for the Timberwolves, who have dropped eight of their last 10 games. He also brushed off the back-and-forth with Aldridge, explaining it was probably something the Blazers’ star did to “get his team going, get the fans into it.”
Nicolas Batum added 24 points for the Blazers, who like the Timberwolves are fighting to stay in the playoff picture.
Portland continues to adjusting to the dismissal of coach Nate McMillan and the trade of starters Marcus Camby and Gerald Wallace at the deadline. Portland is now 5-5 under interim head coach Caleb Canales, who has been juggling with his roster.
On Sunday, the Blazers started J.J. Hickson, who was picked up on March 21 after he was waived by Sacramento.
“We played a good game, played sound defense, we controlled the rebounds,” Batum said. “And we controlled Kevin Love.”
The Timberwolves used nine players as they battle injuries, including the loss of rookie Ricky Rubio for the season.
Minnesota guard J.J. Barea was out for the fifth straight game with a bruised right quadriceps and forward Michael Beasley missed his third game with a sprained big toe on his left foot.
Center Nikola Pekovic, who has missed six games with bone spurs in his right ankle, was with the team on it short two-game road trip to Portland and Sacramento, but coach Rick Adelman said before the game that he would not play.
“Losing Ricky was obviously the toughest thing for us. We were able to grind out games and get wins, but then Pek went down, J.J. continued to be hurt and Michael just added firepower,” Love said. “All four of those guys added something special to this team. When we were rolling we had everyone together.”
Aldridge, who had eight rebounds, was back with the Blazers after missing Friday night’s loss to the Clippers with a sore left elbow.
“I just blocked it out,” he said. “When I’m out there I’m going to play.”
The game was tied at 27 at the end of the first quarter, but when Love rested early in the second, Portland took a 37-31 lead on Jamal Crawford’s pull-up jumper. Portland stretched the lead to 49-42 on another Crawford jumper and the Blazers led 57-50 at the half.
Batum’s 3-pointer and free throw gave the Blazers a 79-68 lead with 4:13 left. Batum blocked Luke Ridnour on the other end to pave the way for Aldridge’s fast-break dunk, giving Portland its biggest lead of the game to that point.
Ridnour made a 3 to narrow it to 86-82 for the Timberwolves late in the third quarter, but Luke Babbitt made a layup at the buzzer.
Crawford’s long jumper put the Blazers up 105-89 midway through the final quarter.
Ridnour and Derrick Williams each finished with 21 points for the Timberwolves.
Hickson finished with 15 points and nine rebounds, while Raymond Felton had 10 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds for the Blazers.
Portland was without center Joel Przybilla, who has a right knee sprain, an absence that paved the way for Hickson to start. It isn’t clear if the injury will keep Przybilla out of Monday night’s game against the Utah Jazz.
In the Timberwolves’ previous visit to the Rose Garden on March 3, Love finished with 42 points, one shy of his career high, and Minnesota won 122-110.
Love grew up just south of Portland in Lake Oswego. He was half of a spectacular prep class in the state of Oregon with Kyle Singler of Medford. Love went on to play at UCLA while Singler played at Duke.
Love’s performance in March was helping preserve the Timberwolves’ playoff aspirations. He averaged a league-best 30.7 points, 13.9 rebounds and shot 48 percent from 3-point range.
But Love can’t carry the Timberwolves alone.
“We’ve got to win almost every game now,” he said. “So it’s still there for us, but we need a tremendous amount of luck on our side as well.”
NOTES: Before the game the Blazers honored longtime broadcaster and Portland native Steve “Snapper” Jones. “I’m just here feeling the love,” said Jones, 70. … Both teams were also coming off losses. The Timberwolves fell 100-79 at home to the Celtics on Friday, while Portland lost 98-97 to the Clippers in Los Angeles the same night. … Batum made a layup at the final buzzer that he felt bad about, because he didn’t want it to look like he was disrespecting the Timberwolves. “No really, sorry,” he said.