Wesley Matthews broke out of his mini-slump in a big way friday night, scoring 29 of a career high 36 in the first half, as the Blazers cruised to a 108-98 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Matthews came out of the gate aggressive and shot the lights out in first quarter, going 5 of 5 from downtown and setting the tone for Portland. He set a franchise record with seven first half threes, allowing the Blazers to build their lead to as much as 24 in the second quarter.
The Blazers, who are far from a strong 3-point shooting team went 9-15 from beyond the arc in the first half, buoyed by the outstanding play of Matthews. Portland put up 63 in the first half, a lead that proved to be insurmountable for the young T-Wolves squad. Kevin Love continues to post ridiculous numbers, adding 30 points and 19 rebounds, but the Blazers kept him off the offensive glass, limiting Minnesota to one and done possessions. It was the eighth consecutive game in which Portland had more offensive rebounds than the opponent, and they had 18 of them in this one.
Meanwhile, LaMarcus Aldridge continues to assert himself and find new ways to score, putting up another strong performance with 28 points and 10 rebounds. Every time the Wolves tried to gain some traction in the third quarter the Blazers had an answer, and Aldridge’s 10 in the quarter led the way. Minnesota was never able to mount a serious run, as the Blazers led by double digits for virtually the entire game. It was a much needed cake walk for the Blazers who will come home to play the steamrolling Miami Heat on Sunday.
Matthews wasn’t a factor in the 2nd half, but once he set the tone early the Blazers never relented. Patty Mills started strong only to fade in the 2nd half as well, but his impact was felt in the first, as he continued to demonstrate his outstanding quickness, blowing by Luke Ridnour and the Minnesota D on several occasions in the Blazers first half offensive explosion. But when he’s in the game the their pace picks up, and it’s clear that in a post-Roy era they will need to run more. There’s simply no way they can be as good as they were in the half court without him.
“I keep saying, losing your main guy — Brandon (Roy) — we were so tailored to play off of him, I think there was an adjustment period for us and for Coach (Nate McMillan),” Aldridge said. “Now we are finding a new identity while he is out, and it’s kind of working for us.”
There is no doubt confidence is growing in the locker room. Winners of 8 of their last 12, with a favorable home schedule in the weeks ahead, things are starting to gel at just the right time of the season for Portland.
They now turn their attention to Miami who come in on a rampage, winners of 20 of their last 21. The Blazers will try to extend their home winning streak to 9, and with their size should matchup well against the Heat. I expect to see Matthews guarding Lebron for most of the night, but you could see him on Wade at times also. Should be a good one.
-Marcus Camby scored only six but as usual gave the Blazers all the intangibles with 6 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 blocks. It was a typically efficient and effective game for Andre Miller as well, who had 16 points on 7-9 shooting to go along with 10 assists.
-Nic Batum didn’t shoot well from the floor, missing a few short range opportunities, but he grabbed 9 boards, and was consistently cutting and slicing to the hoop, which is what you like to see out of him.
-Rudy Fernandez played the first half but did not return for the second, sitting it out with a stomach flu. But you can bet the 20 point lead they had contributed to that decision, and you can expect him to play Sunday.
About the Author
Written by Brandon Marcus
I am 25 year old native New Yorker. I went to the University of Florida where I got my degree Sports Management. I am a die hard fan of the New York Giants, Knicks, Mets and the movie, Die Hard. I'll be covering the Portland Trail Blazers, but also will keep my eye on the league as a whole, and will drop in from time to time with some random thoughts.