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The Sports Xchange, Published December 18 2013

Timberwolves outlast Trail Blazers

MINNEAPOLIS – For nearly two days the Timberwolves had fumed over a hard-to-swallow loss in Boston. On Wednesday at Target Center they gained a measure of atonement.

Forward Kevin Love finished one assist shy of a triple-double and center Nikola Pekovic finished one point shy of his career best in a 120-109 victory over a Portlandteam playing its fourth game in five nights.

Love had 29 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists and Pekovic hit 14 of 19 shots for 30 points for the Wolves, who built a huge lead early then held off a spirited 3-point-fueled comeback attempt by the Blazers (22-5), whose five-game winning streak came to an end.

“We felt we’d tricked one off in Boston,” Love said of his team’s listless loss to the Celtics on Monday night. “We wanted to come with effort tonight. It was nice to have a day off, then catch a team playing a fourth game in five nights.”

With exquisite ball movement and relentless pounding inside, the Wolves

(13-13) built a 32-point lead in the second quarter, still led by 26 at halftime, then endured a comeback led by guards Damian Lillard (36 points) and Nicolas Batum (20) and forward LaMarcus Aldridge (15).

Lillard scored 26 points in the second half for the Blazers, who pulled within 10 points late in the third quarter and within five on Batum’s trey with 46 seconds left in the game. Batum hit 7 of 14 3-point shots and the Blazers tossed up 40 treys overall.

But, each time, the Wolves turned the Blazers back.

“This is a good win, one we had to get,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. “And it came against a team playing great.”

Guard Kevin Martin added 22 points for the Wolves.

It all started early.

Love had six points, nine rebounds and five assists in the first quarter, which Minnesota finished on an 11-4 run to take a nine-point lead. And then the second quarter happened. Love had 11 points and Pekovic nine as the Wolves opened the quarter with a 31-8 run to take a 62-30 lead on Pekovic’s layup with 4:52 left in the half.

Portland 22 21 35 31–109

Minnesota 31 38 29 22–120

PORTLAND (109): Batum 7-15 3-3 20, Aldridge 7-22 1-1 15, Lopez 0-0 2-2 2, Lillard 13-24 3-7 36, Matthews 4-13 6-6 16, Williams 4-11 0-0 9, Freeland 2-2 0-0 4, Wright 2-5 0-0 5, Robinson 1-2 0-0 2, Leonard 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 40-94 15-19 109.

MINNESOTA (120): Brewer 2-6 2-2 6, Love 10-18 5-6 29, Pekovic 14-19 2-3 30, Rubio 2-11 5-6 9, Martin 8-15 5-5 22, Mbah a Moute 2-2 2-2 6, Cunningham 2-8 0-0 4, Barea 4-11 0-2 10, Shved 2-3 0-0 4. Totals 46-93 21-26 120.

3-Point Goals: Portland 14-40 (Lillard 7-14, Batum 3-8, Matthews 2-9, Wright 1-3, Williams 1-5, Aldridge 0-1), Minnesota 7-19 (Love 4-7, Barea 2-4, Martin 1-4, Rubio 0-2, Brewer 0-2). Fouled Out: Williams. Rebounds: Portland 50 (Aldridge 14), Minnesota 60 (Love 15). Assists: Portland 19 (Williams, Lillard 6), Minnesota 27 (Love 9). Total Fouls: Portland 27, Minnesota 19. A_13,776 (19,356).