MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The banged-up Minnesota Timberwolves were just what the Portland Trail Blazers needed.
Having lost six of their previous 10 games, and with a date against first-place Oklahoma City looming on Tuesday, the Blazers took advantage of a Timberwolves team missing three of its best players.
"We felt that way even if they had all their guys," LaMarcus Aldridge said after scoring 26 points to lead Portland past Minnesota 117-110 Saturday night. "If they had those guys, it definitely would've been different, but this was a must-win game either way."
Aldridge scored 16 of his points in the second half and Wesley Matthews added 21 as the Blazers held off a tougher-than-expected Wolves team missing starters Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin.
Just minutes before tipoff, the Wolves announced Love — their All-Star power forward — would miss the game with a bruised left quadriceps sustained in Friday night's loss in New Orleans. Shortly before that, Martin was ruled out indefinitely with a broken left thumb, also suffered against the Pelicans. Combined with Pekovic, the trio accounts for an average of 60 points and 25 rebounds per game.
"It takes a little edge off the game," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. "We found out Kevin Martin wasn't going to play early and then Love wasn't going to play. I think that deflates the balloon a little bit, you kind of get yourself up for guys like that."
But the Blazers knew they couldn't afford to let up against the scrappy Wolves, who trailed for most of the first half but led 82-75 with 1:50 to play in the third quarter. Corey Brewer led Minnesota with 26 points and Ricky Rubio scored a career-high 25.
Minnesota led 87-85 with 9:48 to play in the game before Portland went on a 13-1 run to put the game away. Minnesota pulled within 101-96 with 3:29 to play before Matthews scored five straight and Robin Lopez hit a layup to put the game out of reach.
The Wolves got 19 points from Chase Budinger, 14 from Dante Cunningham and a season-high 12 from rookie Shabazz Muhammad.