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  • 21 Aug 2014

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Blazers shoot, D it up in win over Wolves

Wesley Matthews and Damian Lillard played the part of an All-NBA backcourt and the Trail Blazers took a challenge from Coach Terry Stotts to heart Friday night at the Rose Garden.

The result was a 103-95 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves that sent Portland into a seven-game road trip on a positive note.

Matthews (30 points) and Lillard (28) each scored season highs and the Blazers (6-6), rallying from a 13-point second-quarter deficit, held the Timberwolves (5-6) to .410 shooting — .351 over the final three quarters.

It was an improved defensive performance for a Portland team that entered the game last in the NBA in opponents’ scoring (102.9) and field-goal percentage (.501).

At Friday’s shootaround, Coach Terry Stotts showed the Blazers the opponent’s shooting percentage and scoring production during the minutes each has been in a game this season.

“A lot of guys weren’t pleased with the numbers we saw,” Lillard said. “We came out tonight and focused on it.”

Stotts was particularly perturbed with Portland’s defense in a 114-87 loss at Phoenix on Wednesday, a game in which the Suns shot .597.

“We’ve been embarrassed,” Matthews said. “Teams shooting 50 percent on us. ... the thumping we took in Phoenix. (The Suns) are all right; they’ve got some players. But we don’t feel like we should ever lose like that to everybody.

“We’re all professionals. We’ve played basketball for a long time. But it still takes calling out. That’s what Coach (Stotts) did, and everybody responded.”

“I saw an intensity in our guys’ face about how important (defense) was,” Stotts said. “I’ve seen it in spots this season. The second half tonight, we sustained it for a long period of time.”

Offense is important, too, and Matthews and Lillard provided it in superlative fashion.

“Matthews and Lillard, they just couldn’t miss,” said Minnesota power forward Kevin Love, who had team highs in points (24) and rebounds (13) in his 36 minutes. “Easy as that. Those kind of games happen.”

“Wes and Damian picked up the slack tonight,” Aldridge said. “They came out ready to go, played great and made shots.”

Matthews was 12 for 17 from the field, including 5 for 6 from 3-point range, and also had four steals and three assists in his 40-minute performance.

“I needed a game like this,” said Matthews, whose career-high is 36 points. “Haven’t been too many games where I’ve able to really go like that. But I was really more happy with the defensive performance on my behalf and the team’s behalf.”

“I wasn’t surprised he was making shots,” Lillard said. “Every day in practice you see those shots Wes takes going in.”

Before the game, Minnesota coach Rick Adelman called Lillard “probably the best rookie in the league right now.” The 6-3 point guard out of Weber State lived up to that billing, sinking 11 of 17 shots, including 4 of 8 3-pointers, while contributing eight assists with no turnovers in a Rembrandt-like 37 minutes.

The Blazers shot a season-best .538, in part due to Minnesota’s porous defense.

“We just didn’t defend them well enough,” Adelman said. “They shot the heck out of the ball and (on offense) we didn’t finish plays at the basket.”

“We needed to get the ball moving more,” Lillard said. “Sometimes the ball has been sticking and we haven’t been able to score that easily.

“When people are making more shots, it’s a lot easier. Plus, it had to do with the way they played (defense). There was a lot of space out there and I was able to make plays... it was pretty easy.”

Portland won despite a huge disadvantage in a couple of statistical categories — rebounds (47-33, including 17-6 at the offensive end) and free throws (8 for 18 to Minnesota’s 28 for 37). The Blazers made up the difference in 3-point accuracy (11 for 25 to the Wolves’ 3 for 18), providing an extra 24 points.

“We don’t win a lot of categories a lot of times,” Stotts said. “We beat Chicago and (the Bulls) outscored us by 20 in the paint.

“There’s not a definitive way to win a game. How we play is important. Sometimes it’s not going to be defined by winning a boxscore. It’s going to be by playing with a rhythm at the offensive end and with intensity and grit on the defensive end.”

NOTES: Portland begins its road trip Sunday with a noon PST time at New Jersey. ... Portland’s J.J. Hickson had his sixth double-double of the season with 14 points and 13 rebounds in 31 minutes. ... Aldridge picked up his fourth foul when a double foul was whistled with Love with 9:27 left in the third quarter. Stotts left Aldridge in the game, and 2 1/2 minutes later he picked up his fifth foul and had to sit until early in the fourth quarter. Stotts’ explanation: “I just thought he deserved a chance to play a few more minutes. I rode it about a minute too long. It was good for the morale of the team to show some fight and keep him in there.” ... Aldridge finished with 13 points and six rebounds before fouling out in 28 minutes. Does he have a personal thing going with Love, the Lake Oswego native? “I don’t think so, but everybody else might think so,” Aldridge said.

Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio, who missed the second half of last season following knee surgery, worked out hard before Friday’s game with no problems. The Timberwolves are hopeful the second-year point guard will return to action in a few weeks. “He’s doing good,” Adelman said. “He’s been able to go through all the (non-contact) drills. He has to see the doctor one more time, and maybe after this trip we can get him on the practice floor. It’s just going to take him some time to get his conditioning and timing down.” ... Portland has won 13 of its last 14 meetings with Minnesota at the Rose Garden.