It’s been a rough second half of the season for the Portland Trail Blazers but it seems a bit of rest has done them a world of good, finding quite a lot of energy to come back from a big deficit against the Minnesota Timberwolves, picking up a second consecutive win, getting big nights from Damian Lillard and Thomas Robinson.
The Blazers came away with a 108-97 win despite being behind by 18 points, finding it very difficult to slow down Kevin Love, who finished with 31 points. The Timberwolves are withotu Nikola Pekovic but also without his backup Ronny Turiaf, so Love started at center and gave Robin Lopez a lot of problems. However, the Blazers, even without LaMarcus Aldridge, got hot in the second half with Nicolas Batum providing the glue on both ends of the floor (22 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists).
Damian Lillard led the scoring with 32 points, but it was Thomas Robinson’s night. One of the more disappointing products of the 2012 NBA draft, Robinson is already on his third NBA team. A part of the usually ineffective Blazers bench unit, not having Aldridge meant a lot of minutes for the Kansas product, playing a career high 33 minutes, leading him to his best game as an NBA player with 14 points, 18 rebounds, and one memorable rejection that just might be the best block we’ve seen this season.
Adrenaline shot through me, I was hyped. I probably said a lot of stuff I don’t remember. It was pandemonium.
Robinson blocked Corey Brewer, beginning a fast break that led to an Alley Oop dunk by Will Barton off a Wesley Matthews assist. The Timberwolves were drowned by the noise from that point onward, while the Blazers were unstoppable moving forward with all the energy pumping up the arena. Lillard said that they were calling Robinson ‘Thomas Aldridge’ in the dressing room after the game, in what might be a career changing night for the power forward, who hasn’t gotten too many opportunities so far in his career.
So Kevin Love wasted away another great night: He had a 25-10 stat line for a 10th straight game, the longest run of 25-10 games since Shaquille O’Neal had 13 in a row in 2001.Without Kevin Martin and Pekovic, the hopes the Timberwolves might still have about making the playoffs are fading away, especially on such a weak night from Ricky Rubio, long established to be the true litmus paper of this team.
And the Blazers? Winning the West isn’t out of the question if Aldridge isn’t out for too long, and they start getting significant help from guys like Robinson. For a team that relies on its three point shooting and doesn’t have too much defense to keep them in games when the percentages drop, not having a bench and constantly relying on the same two players for heroics is a bit too much to endure. Robinson, Batum and Mo Williams need to be more consistent and productive, so Lillard and Aldridge can start resting in games without having to worry about it slipping away from them, and so life can be a bit simpler when playing offense.