Live from the Moda Center as the Portland Trail Blazers host the Minnesota Timberwolves.
It was supposed to be a battle between two of the best power forwards in the game, but with LaMarcus Aldridge on the shelf with a groin injury, tonight’s game will be all about the Kevin Love Experience. Love has been straight murder as of late, averaging 34.5 points and 15 rebounds in the month of February. Oh, and he had his first career triple double last night against the Utah Jazz.
There's only one explanation for Love's recent surge: he upgraded his face. Upgrade your face, upgrade your game. Sure, GQ, you can make a handsome guy like Love more attractive. Let's see what you can do with Alexey Shved and then I'll be impressed.
The biggest story of the day—no, not that it’s mascot night at the Moda Center—is Jason Collins signing a ten day contract with the Brooklyn Nets. Collins is now the first openly gay athlete in any of the four major sports. High fives all around.
After missing the majority of last game with the stomach flu, Nicolas Batum is set to give it another go tonight. On the plus side, Batum is a massive upgrade over any Portland bench player. On the downside, the probability of seeing another 360 dunk just fell from .01% to .00001%.
On paper the Wolves look like a playoff team with a top ten offense, a top ten defense, and a strong point differential, but in real basketball things haven't quite gone so well. Minnesota is sitting outside of the playoff hunt and another lottery trip seems inevitable. Some of that can be chalked up to injuries, but I still blame David Kahn.
The Blazers lead the season series 2-1, but all three of those games were with Aldridge. The likes of Dorell Wright and Thomas Robinson have no hope of slowing down Love with anything short of the Tonya Harding defense.
Mascot night with no Squatch is no mascot night at all. I see you, Slamson, and I am not excited.
11:39 - I was kidding about the Tonya Harding defense, I swear. Kevin Love just hit the deck hard, right on his tailbone, going up for a rebound. The thud hurt me all the way up here. 2-0 Blazers.
10:05 - Robin Lopez just missed a gimme at the rim and couldn't do anything but smile on his way up the court. Minnesota's interior defense looks pretty bad so far, so those shots should hopefully be there all night. 8-4 Wolves.
9:04 - Ho hum, seven early points for Kevin Love. As you were. 13-7 Wolves.
8:01 - Is allowing the opposing team to shoot 88% from the field bad? Asking for a friend who just needed to call a timeout to stop the bleeding. 18-9 Wolves.
6:30 - Ricky Rubio is eating Damian Lillard alive on offense. His penetration, and Lillard's lack of defense, is letting the Wolves get any shot they way. Lillard just can't stay in front at all which is leading to open shots, and the Wolves are hitting them. 22-11 Wolves.
5:36 - Right on cue, Rubio picks up an and one going straight at Lillard. This is getting out of hand already. 25-14 Wolves.
4:12 - Well, Rubio may be able to get to the rim, but he still can't shoot threes. He just air balled a wide open triple, which led to a breakaway three-pointer for Dorell Wright on the other end. 25-20 Wolves.
2:33 - Love may go for sixty tonight. He's got 13 here early and hasn't missed from the floor, shooting a perfect 5-5. The only thing keeping Portland in this one is great shooting from Dame, who has 12 points of his own. 31-23 Wolves.
1:53 - Love finally misses and the building exhales. 31-26 Wolves.
0:00 - Not much to enjoy in that first quarter if you are a Portland fan. The Aldridge-less offense finally looked a little bit better than it has in previous nights, but oh man the defense. Love paced the Wolves with 13 points and 5 rebounds, and I don't think Portland has a defender good enough to stop him. 34-26 Wolves.
10:38 - Giving the Wolves six chances to score on a single possession does not seem like a winning strategy. After numerous misses and offensive rebounds, JJ Barea finally made the Blazers pay with a simple floater in the lane. Somehow Barea has eight points in this game. Is it 2011 and nobody told me? 39-28 Wolves.
9:44 - The Blazers can't grab a rebound and Claver just missed an open three by about four feet. Right on cue, here come Lillard and Lopez.
8:38 - It would be one thing if it were Kevin Love, but right now Gorgui Dieng, Shabazz Muhammed, and Robbie Hummel are growing this Minnesota lead. 43-28 Wolves.
8:30 - Damian Lillard's success rate on his one-handed poster jams now stands at 10% on the year. At least he got free throws for this miss. 43-30 Wolves.
5:56 - We're in danger territory. The Blazers need to get this one back to within single digits, and soon, otherwise we may be headed for a blowout. The Wolves are growing their lead, the Blazers are shooting a paltry 40% from the floor, and Kevin Love hasn't even played in the second quarter yet. 50-34 Wolves.
5:31 - Lillard just got caught on a switch against Kevin Love and picked up his third foul of the game trying to battle for position. Mo Williams is coming back in. Lillard is the only Blazer able to hit a shot tonight, so Portland's offense isn't about to get any better with him on the bench. 52-34 Wolves.
4:19 - And now Thomas Robinson picks up a foul battling for position with Love. That dude sure knows how to use his ass to his advantage. 54-39 Wolves.
3:28 - Robinson is stuck with a Herculean task trying to guard Love, so why not get his on the offensive end? He just scooped up an errant Batum pass and was able to put it back, in traffic, for the and one. 56-42 Wolves.
2:24 - Portland just can't catch a break. The Blazers had two good looks at a threes after a massive Lopez block on the defensive end. Love grabbed the rebound on the second miss and tried to throw an outlet down to Corey Brewer who had already leaked out. Lopez tapped the outlet in the air, but Love was able to secure that deflection and then connect on his outlet to Brewer. A couple of misses, a couple of close calls, and Minnesota ends up with two points. 60-46 Wolves.
1:22 - Robinson, cleaning up the offensive glass again. Every little bit counts. 60-48 Wolves.
0:59 - Alright, Robinson. You do you. Another bucket for the backup big, this time on a fast break, and the Blazers have cut this one back to ten. 60-50 Wolves.
0:00 - A perfect ending to the quarter. A 6-0 run, led by Thomas Robinson, brought Portland back to within single digits—a much more manageable deficit. Portland is also out-shooting the Wolves for the first time tonight, hitting 46% of their shots to Minnesota's 45%. It's still an uphill climb, but the hill doesn't seem quite as steep. 60-52 Wolves.
11:26 - Ricky Rubio offensive rebound, Chase Budinger three-pointer. Not the best way to start the quarter. Portland must have been distracted from all the mascots losing their clothes during a dance off at halftime. I know I was. 63-52 Wolves.
9:46 - The Blazers are doing work of their own on the offensive glass, specifically Thomas Robinson. He just had another put back, giving him nine points and eight rebounds on the night. After a strong first half, Robinson got the starting nod over Dorell Wright in the third quarter. 63-59 Wolves.
7:43 - One point game! With Lillard on the floor, the offense is humming. The Blazers are firing here in the third, and suddenly are destroying the offensive glass as well. 67-66 Wolves.
5:50 - Lillard for three! Tie game! This place is finally alive. Lillard must not have liked sitting with foul trouble—he's got eight points already here in the third. 71-71 Tie.
5:16 - Blazers lead! Nicolas Batum clanked a three, but it bounced up off of the top of the backboard and fell right back in. The basketball gods have switched their teams this half. 74-73 Blazers.
4:05 - Dame sits with four fouls, and right on cue Kevin Love hits a three-pointer. Love has 28 points, Dame is right behind with 27. After gaining the lead, though, Portland has sloppily turned it over on two straight possessions. 80-76 Wolves.
3:05 - Will Barton corner three? I guess he isn't all just 360 dunks. 80-79 Wolves.
1:58 - Batum for three! The Blazers have hit eleven threes on the night, their saving grace with Aldridge out. I don't know how Portland has the lead back in this game, but here we are. 82-80 Blazers.
0:50 - Will Barton on Corey Brewer is my new favorite NBA matchup. 84-80 Blazers.
0:23 - A Thomas Robinson block on JJ Barea. A Victor Claver drawn charge on Kevin Love. The Blazers are exploding here at the end quarter, and the fans are giving it right back. When Claver drew that charge, Lillard jumped off the bench and made sure Claver knew he appreciated the effort—Dame was screaming his head off. What a stretch. 84-80 Blazers.
0:00 - Portland couldn't capitalize on their final possession, but all the momentum is on their side. Portland ball to start the fourth.
11:35 - Thomas Robinson dunk! Portland is on a 10-0 run and the Wolves are wilting. 86-80 Blazers.
11:14 - In a sentence I didn't think I'd ever write, Will Barton just had an amazing pass on a fast break (!) to Victor Claver (!!) who threw it down with authority (!!!). Make that a 12-0 run, and Minnesota needs time already. 88-80 Blazers.
9:22 - Damian Lillard is going to wreck somebody. After somehow laying it in under two defenders in transition (seriously, what a shot!), Corey Brewer wouldn't let Dame get up off the floor. It looked like he literally held him down. Dame finally had to push Brewer out of the way, and double fouls were called on the scrapping pair. 90-83 Blazers.
8:39 - I have chills. The crowd is giving this team a standing ovation. That was one of the more incredible momentum shifting plays I think I have seen live. Robinson had a huge rejection on Corey Brewer (right after the Dame play), which led to a fast break alleyoop to Will Barton in transition. I can't do that play justice. Please go look it up in the game's highlights once this one is over. It was that good. 92-84 Blazers.
7:53 - Aldridge who? Thomas Robinson is putting his stamp on this game like I haven't seen. He just picked up an and one off of an offensive rebound. He's got fourteen points and fifteen rebounds. This crowd will be chanting his name before the night is out. 95-86 Blazers.
6:49 - This crowd is electric, straight fire, and the Blazers are owning every minute of it. Will Barton knocked the ball away from Corey Brewer, and Matthews hit a three on the next Portland possession. Explosion. Minnesota needs time. Incredible. 98-86 Blazers.
6:41 - Right out of the timeout, Barea picked up an offensive foul. Mo Williams gave him a little of his own medicine. This game. 98-86 Blazers.
4:54 - For as amazing as this game has been, the Wolves aren't done quite yet. They are still within striking distance, and Terry Stotts knows it—he just called a conservative timeout to calm his guys down. 100-90 Blazers.
4:14 - Lillard wants to go home. Put it on ice, get out of here. He just hit a triple from thirty feet out, nothing but net. 105-91 Blazers.
3:37 - In lieu of defense, JJ Barea just held onto Claver's jersey as he ran by. A fistful of nylon. And still he tried to argue that he wasn't in the wrong. 106-91 Blazers.
2:42 - The white flag has been waved. Alexey Shved and AJ Price are in, and Minnesota's season is on the outs. 106-92 Blazers.
1:08 - Timeout for the Blazers, who have been waiting to get all of their bench players into the game for the last minute. Here comes Earl Watson, there goes the fans. 108-97 Blazers.
FINAL: 108-97 Blazers. What a night. Behind the best game of Thomas Robinson's career (14 points and 18 rebounds), Portland exploded during the second half to bury the Wolves. Lillard finished with 32 points, Victor Claver had some great burn, and the crowd really brought it late. It's still humming in here, even with everyone filing for the exits. That Robinson block. Wow. I'll be watching that on repeat later tonight.