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The Sports Xchange, Published February 08 2014

Blazers hold off banged-up Timberwolves

MINNEAPOLIS – Forward LaMarcus Aldridge scored 26 points and guard C.J. McCollum came off the bench to score 19 to lead the Portland Trail Blazers to a tougher-than-expected 117-110 victory over the injury-depleted Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday night.

Minnesota, which played without forward Kevin Love, shooting guard Kevin Martin and center Nikola Pekovic because of injuries, kept the game close for three quarters and led early in the fourth quarter before the Blazers rallied.

Aldridge scored six points in an 11-1 run midway through the fourth quarter that put the game away. His jumper with 5 minutes, 37 seconds left gave capped the spurt and gave Portland a 98-88 lead.

Minnesota never got within five points down the stretch, and the Blazers were able to end their four-game road trip on a winning note.

Portland, which had dropped four of its past six games after Friday’s overtime loss at Indiana, also got 21 from guard Wesley Matthews and 15 points from forward Nicolas Batum. Blazers point guard Damian Lillard was limited by foul trouble and finished with 14.

While the Timberwolves did not expect to have Pekovic against the Blazers, Love and Martin were late scratches. Love missed the game because of a quad injury and Martin has a broken thumb. The trio – who are the Timberwolves’ top three scorers – are averaging a combined 62.6 points, 25.7 rebounds and 7.0 assists.

Minnesota point guard Ricky Rubio did everything he could to keep the Timberwolves in the game. Making 8 of 19 shots from the field, Rubio had a season high before the end of the third quarter and finished with a career-high 25 points.

Wing Corey Brewer scored 26, forward Chase Budinger added 19 and forward Dante Cunningham finished with 14. Minnesota rookie forward Shabazz Muhammed scored 12 points, reaching double figures for the first time in his career.

Portland led 55-54 at halftime even though Lillard was limited to six minutes of action because of foul trouble. With Lillard sitting with three fouls, McCollum came off the bench to score 13 first-half points.

While the Blazers led by as many as 11 points early in the second quarter, the undermanned Timberwolves kept fighting. Minnesota scored 13 of the final 19 points of the half to get within one.

The pass-first Rubio led all scorers with 14 points in the first half. Cunningham and Muhammad each had nine points as Minnesota kept it close.

Portland 28 27 28 34 — 117:

Minnesota 23 31 29 27 — 110:

PORTLAND (117)

Aldridge 12-16 2-2 26, Batum 6-12 3-4 15, Matthews 6-14 6-7 21, Lillard 3-10 7-7 14, R.Lopez 1-6 5-7 7, McCollum 6-12 4-6 19, Freeland 5-6 1-3 11, T.Robinson 0-2 1-2 1, E.Watson 1-2 0-0 3, D.Wright 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 40-82 29-38 117.

MINNESOTA (110)

Cunningham 6-16 2-6 14, Rubio 8-19 7-8 25, C.Brewer 11-23 4-6 26, Turiaf 4-8 0-0 8, Budinger 6-12 4-5 19, Muhammad 4-8 4-5 12, Barea 1-7 4-4 6, Dieng 0-1 0-0 0, Shved 0-2 0-0 0, Hummel 0-0 0-0 0, Mbah a Moute 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 40-97 25-34 110.

3-Point Goals: Portland 8-23 (Matthews 3-5, McCollum 3-6, E.Watson 1-2, Lillard 1-4, D.Wright 0-2, Batum 0-4), Minnesota 5-17 (Budinger 3-6, Rubio 2-4, C.Brewer 0-1, Cunningham 0-1, Muhammad 0-2, Barea 0-3). Fouled out: Turiaf. Rebounds: Portland 55 (R.Lopez 11), Minnesota 62 (Turiaf 13). Assists: Portland 28 (Matthews 6), Minnesota 17 (Rubio 9). Total Fouls: Portland 30 (Matthews, Lillard 5), Minnesota 25 (Turiaf 6). A—17,506.