The Portland Trail Blazers took care of business at home, beating the Minnesota Timberwolves 115-104. The win was the Blazers’ 33rd of the season, equaling their total from last year. LaMarcus Aldridge paced the Blazers with 21 points on 9-21 shooting, but all five starters scored in double figures to contribute to a balanced scoring attack.
The matchup of premier Western Conference power forwards that many expected never materialized, as Kevin Love of the Timberwolves was held to only 15 points (on 4-12 shooting). The Wolves were instead led by Kevin Martin’s 30 points, with Ricky Rubio contributing 11 assists and 10 points as well.
The story of the game was certainly the Blazers’ bench, who played one of their best games of the season. While single game plus/minus stats must be used with caution, it is telling when every single Blazer off the bench had a positive plus/minus, with four out of the five Blazers starters actually in the negatives. In terms of raw points, the Blazers bench domination was even more apparent, as they outscored their Timberwolves counterparts 34-15.
Mo Williams had an excellent, efficient game to lead the bench’s charge. His 16 points on 6-12 shooting helped the reserves to get the initial separation from the Wolves, and his two threes came at opportune moments.
The other Blazer worth singling out was rookie CJ McCollum, who had a quiet, albeit solid showing. He had six points on 50 percent shooting, but also chipped in two assists, two rebounds, and two steals. His play of the night was an incredibly savvy steal off a J.J. Barea pass in the second quarter, after which he had the awareness to locate a streaking Thomas Robinson for an easy finish on the other end. That play showed a level of basketball intelligence that you don’t often see rookies immediately grasp.
The final note worth mentioning is that the Blazers only made four three-pointers, on just 25% shooting from deep. While the Blazers have slowly but surely been shedding their status as a team focused only on threes (whether that was fair or not), it is certainly encouraging to see them be able to grind out games when the shots from distance aren’t falling.
There is no rest for the weary, however, as the Blazers must immediately head down to the Bay for their showdown with Golden State tomorrow. Their last meeting was a spirited showing involving the shoving match that got Mo Williams suspended, so both teams are sure to be fired up. The game is scheduled to tip-off Sunday at 6:00 p.m. PST.