Live from the Moda Center as the Portland Trail Blazers host the Minnesota Timberwolves.
It’s a battle of the two best power forwards in the league, as Lake Oswego native Kevin Love is in town after being named a starter to the Western Conference All-Star team. If anyone missed LaMarcus Aldridge’s forty-four point outburst on Thursday night—right after the All-Stars were announced, of course—it’s clear he didn’t take to kindly to being snubbed and left to a bench role.
So who’s better: Love or Aldridge? It’s a hot debate topic that has been popping up all year. Love has the better stats with more points per game, more rebounds, and a higher PER. Aldridge is prettier and smells like puppies dipped in lavender.
The case for Aldridge actually has more to do with his surroundings then his ability to melt hearts—he’s the best player on one of the best teams in the league. I get it, that argument is a slippery slope, one that leads people to claim Kobe is better than LeBron because of championship rings. Back the stats. It’s not Love’s fault his GM was David Kahn for multiple years.
But Aldridge is a close statistical second to Love and is the better defender. With the two so close talent-wise, the edge has to be given the player that is the lynchpin to a championship contender. It’s just too bad for the Wolves that the All-Star voting public didn’t quite see it that way. If Thursday was any indication, they aren’t going to like Aldridge when he’s angry.
Plus, Aldridge’s uncle isn’t responsible for unleashing “Kokomo” on the world, and that has to count for something.
Two crazy Wolves stats from last night’s game against the Warriors. First, they won a game decided by fewer than four points. That doesn’t seem like a big deal, but they had been 0-11 in those close games before last night’s victory. Second, Ricky Rubio hit his first fourth-quarter field goal since December 16th. Over a month! Insane!
The Blazers lost to the Wolves earlier this year in Minnesota, though it was more of a schedule loss—it’s tough to expect to win a road game that is the fourth game in five nights. With a little rest, and the road team this time coming in the second night of a back to back, the Blazers have a better shot of picking one up.
Change this face. Be happy. Enjoy it. It’s basketball time.
11:42 - Blazers win the tip. Off the bat there's a foul up top, a tipped ball out of bounds, and a long jumper from Nicolas Batum. Just how the Blazers drew it up. 2-0 Blazers.
10:50 - Corey Brewer with two quick fouls and he's forced to sit with only a minute gone in the first quarter. Batum has all five Portland points thus far and looks aggressive here early. 5-2 Blazers.
8:31 - Aldridge strikes first in the power forward battle. He's got two points to Love's love. 8-7 Blazers.
6:29 - Robin Lopez and Wesley Matthews just tried to get the same offensive rebound. Lopez ended up pushing Matthews out of bounds, and his momentum carried them both halfway down the tunnel. That's some Comic Com-fueled superhero strength right there. 14-12 Wolves.
6:01 - Anytime you can get Burt Ward on the jumbotron and M83 over the loudspeaker during the same timeout break you know you're doing something right. 14-14 Tie.
4:16 - Burt Ward shows up on the jumbotron and Robin Lopez scores the next four Blazer points. Coincidence? No way. 18-16 Blazers.
3:25 - Batum wants 44 tonight. He's got 11 here already, so my math says he's right on track. Trying to show the Wolves what they missed when the Blazers matched his offer sheet? 20-20 Tie.
2:07 - Mama, there's Wolves in the house. Mama, their threes keep falling down. 26-22 Wolves.
1:05 - Kevin Love just stayed back on offense to show his contempt for the lack of a foul call. That gave the Blazers a five on four fast break—seriously, Love didn't even attempt to jog up court to get back on defense—and LaMarcus scored easily at the rim. 29-26 Wolves.
0:00 - After one, Batum is leading the way with 11 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists, but the Wolves are holding on to a slim lead. Nobody on the Blazers is wearing a scary face protective mask like Alexey Shved, though, so that has to be worth at least a couple extra points. 29-27 Wolves.
10:26 - Mo Williams is making some stuff happen this quarter. That's five quick points and a fast break assist for the backup PG. After his first shot was about two feet short it seemed like it might be an off night for Mo, but he's bounced back nicely here to start the second. 34-31 Blazers.
9:44 - Add a rebound and another assist for Mo. He's playing well enough to silence his critics for a few minutes at least. 36-31 Blazers.
8:54 - The Blazers bench is making a huge impact, something that never gets written about the Blazers bench. The Wolves bench might be the worst in the league, so that might be why Portland looks so good right now. CJ McCollum just did his best Love impersonation and threw a long outlet pass to a streaking Thomas Robinson who had an easy slam. The Minnesota starters will be back on the court soon. 43-33 Blazers.
6:20 - Thomas Robinson just had a huge block, this after scoring four points in a row. Unfortunately, the rejection went right to Kevin Martin who calmly knocked down his third three-pointer of the night. Martin has fifteen for the Wolves, and is the only Minnesota player causing any damage. 50-40 Blazers.
5:05 - Two leak-outs in a row for Corey Brewer, two beautiful passes from Ricky Rubio. Offensive rebounding is nice, but the Wolves will kill you just like that if you don't get back on defense. 51-46 Blazers.
3:25 - A couple of questionable calls has this crowd fired up. LaMarcus sneezed on Rubio and he fell over and got the call, but Damian Lillard was hammered at the rim by Nikola "Non" Pekovic and the play went on. 53-50 Blazers.
2:22 - The Blazers are 1-10 from deep yet still up by eight in this game. Once those threes start falling, watch out. 58-50 Blazers.
2:11 - Robinson just had a beautiful touch pass to Robin Lopez in the post. That was a pass that no big man on the Blazers could make, and I didn't know Robinson had that kind of touch. Wow. 61-52 Blazers.
1:20 - Kevin Martin must really like wearing these sleeved jerseys. That three just gave him twenty for the game. 63-55 Blazers.
0:00 - The Blazers are focusing on getting out into transition and pushing the pace. So far it's working well, especially since they can't hit anything from distan...WHAT!? The Portland Tail Blazers are in the house! Dog races at halftime! This is the greatest day of my life. 65-57 Blazers.
9:40 - Kevin Love is firing here to start the third. LaMarcus, with three fouls, seems a little hesitant to really try and body him up on defense. 67-63 Blazers.
7:25 - Well, there goes that lead. Love and Pekovic are doing work down low, and the Blazers still can't buy an outside shot. Lillard is especially struggling, shooting only 3-13 from the floor. Aldridge has all six Portland points this quarter, but 14 > 6 (math!) and the Wolves have this one all tied up. 71-71 Tie.
5:50 - Rubio still can't shoot for anything, but he's carving up the Blazers defense. He and Pekovic are running the pick and roll to perfection. 73-72 Wolves.
5:02 - A three-pointer! For the Blazers! Thanks, Wesley. 75-73 Blazers.
2:56 - Wait, didn't the third quarter just start? How is it almost over already? The Blazers must be wondering what happened as well, what with their lead disappearing and all. Maybe we can get the benches in again so Portland can go on another run? 79-78 Wolves.
1:33 - Rubio just tried to flop, the refs didn't call it, and Mo had all day to line up a three-pointer. Bang. 83-81 Blazers.
1:00 - Mo, doing his thing. He's carrying this team tonight with Lillard struggling, and his shot is the only one that seems to be consistently falling. Some nights you just gotta let the gunner gun. 87-81 Blazers.
0:00 - So much for that power forward battle. LaMarcus has sixteen points and six rebounds, an anemic output considering his recent blowups. He could use a solid fourth quarter in the worst way. 87-81 Blazers.
10:17 - Wesley Matthews got called for an offensive foul on a pretty clear Kevin Martin flop. Martin took full advantage, knocking down another three on the next possession. Matthews will get that back. 89-84 Blazers.
9:30 - Matthews to the hoop, plus the foul. I told you he'd get that one back. 91-84 Blazers.
8:41 - The Portland bench continues to shine against Minnesota's bench squad. I lived through the Blazers last year, I feel your pain Minnesota fans. Having a bad bench is the worse than a JJ Barea flop. 93-84 Blazers.
7:26 - Aldridge back in for Robinson, who gets a nice ovation as he leaves the court after one of his best shifts of this season. 97-88 Blazers.
7:02 - Aldridge wants those MVP chants. He just hit a high-arching rainbow jumper off the dribble, near the three-point line, and picked up a foul in the process. Three points the old fashioned way. 100-88 Blazers.
5:32 - Lillard with a quick 5-0 run on his own, draining a long two and a three-pointer. There's a lot of game left to be played, but that last three sure felt like a dagger. 105-88 Blazers.
4:24 - As soon as I said something about this game being close to over, the Wolves go on their own 5-0 run. Of course they do. The Blazers don't blow anyone (besides the Bobcats, of course) out—every game needs to have some element of drama. 105-93 Blazers.
3:04 - Stotts needs time. Just like that, the Wolves are back to within ten points, doing damage in transition. For a relatively close game, there sure are a lot of fans headed for the exits now. Portland is still a couple defensive stops away from calling this one. 107-97 Blazers.
2:18 - Batum with the in and out three, but both Love and Pekovic go after the same uncontested rebound and fumble it out of bounds. Love is out of touch, and the Wolves are out of time. 107-97 Blazers.
1:12 - One more trip for Aldridge to the line, one more chance for the fans to serenade him with MVP chants. Here come the reserves, the white flag is out. 111-99 Blazers.
FINAL: 115-104 Blazers. The battle of the best power forwards in the game sort of disappointed. Love finished with fifteen points and thirteen rebounds, while Aldridge finished with twenty-one points and six rebounds. The real story belonged to the benches, where the Blazers took full advantage of Minnesota's lack of depth. There were no fireworks like Thursday night, but a win is a win.