Blazers hold off banged-up T'wolves

Minnesota, playing without three of its top players, hangs with Portland until the end

MINNEAPOLIS — 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.

"It doesn't matter who's out," coach Rick Adelman said. "The next guy steps up, that's how you have to approach it. You can't worry about who's not playing, worry about who is playing, and make the best out of the situation. I thought we played well tonight."

Aldridge had six points during Portland's game-deciding 13-1 run in the fourth quarter. That run came with Rubio on the bench.

Rookie C.J. McCollum had a season-high 19 points and Nicolas Batum added 15 for the Blazers, who finished their four-game road trip 2-2.

"We were really counting on our bench tonight because I really wanted to rest the starters," Stotts said. "They all played a lot of minutes last night and the first half the bench really gave us a boost. We were able to make a little ground with them in the game."

Minnesota's key starters also got a rest — in their street clothes.

"It's tough having all of those guys out," Budinger said. "Those are huge impact guys for us and we're hoping Kevin was able to go but he was really struggling and hurting. He tried to get himself going but just couldn't do it."

Jazz 94, Heat 89

At Salt Lake City, Marvin Williams scored 23 points and rookie Trey Burke hit a jumper with 24 seconds remaining to lift the Utah Jazz to a victory over the Miami Heat.

Trailing 87-79 after Williams hit two 3-pointers, the Heat used a 10-4 run to draw within two points when Ray Allen made a 3 from the corner with 46 seconds to play.

Burke, who had 13 points, rose up and drained the clutch 19-foot jump shot to beat the shot clock and Gordon Hayward's free throw clinched the win for the Jazz, who have beat the Heat at home three straight times.

Suns 122, Warriors 109

At Phoenix, Goran Dragic scored 13 of his career-high 34 points in the final seven minutes and Phoenix pulled away for a victory over depleted Golden State.

Dragic, who also had 10 assists, topped 30 points for the sixth time this season as the Suns (30-20) pulled a half-game ahead of the Warriors (30-21) for the sixth-best record in the Western Conference.

Gerald Green added 25 points and P.J. Tucker had 16 points and a career-best 15 rebounds for Phoenix.

Grizzlies 79, Hawks 76

At Atlanta, Zach Randolph scored 20 points and Memphis set an NBA record with only one free throw attempt while continuing its pattern of winning on the road with a victory over Atlanta.

Memphis' single free throw attempt is the record low since the shot-clock era was introduced in 1954-55, according to STATS. Cleveland (1994) and New Orleans (2004) shared the previous low of two free throw attempts.

The Hawks set a season scoring low after leading 29-27 following the first period. Atlanta was held to a combined 25 points in the second and third periods.

Pistons 126, Nuggets 109

At Auburn Hills, Mich., Brandon Jennings had a season-high 35 points to go with 12 assists, Josh Smith had 30 points and Detroit avoided another fourth-quarter collapse to win a shootout with Denver.

The game didn't quite match Detroit's 186-184 triple-overtime win over Denver 30 years ago, but still saw 11 players score in double figures and the Pistons put up a season high in points.

Rodney Stuckey added 19 points for Detroit, while Andre Drummond had 18 points and 15 rebounds. Kyle Singler played 46 minutes in a starting role, scoring 10 points on 4-for-10 shooting.

Spurs 104, Bobcats 100

At Charlotte, N.C., Patty Mills scored 18 of his season-high 32 points in the fourth quarter and Tim Duncan had a double-double to lead San Antonio past Charlotte for its fourth win in five games.

Mills was 10 of 13 from the field, including 5 of 5 in the fourth quarter. He also connected on 8 of 9 foul shots and had four 3-pointers to help the Spurs defeat the Bobcats for the sixth straight time.

Duncan finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds for his 22nd double-double of the season.

Rockets 101, Bucks 95

At Milwaukee, Dwight Howard scored 27 points, including three crucial free throws in the closing seconds, and James Harden scored 10 of his 22 points in the decisive third quarter to help Houston hold off short-handed, scrappy Milwaukee to win its fifth straight.

Jeremy Lin added 18 as the Rockets tied their longest winning streak of the season, a mark set in late November.

Brandon Knight scored 23 points for the Bucks and Khris Middleton had 20, including three free throws after being fouled behind the arc with 46.6 seconds remaining as Milwaukee came back to trail 98-95. Howard made three of four free throws for Houston's final points and seal the win.


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