Trail Blazers vs Timberwolves Saturday, 03/02/13 AT 07:00PM

Lillard's 24 Points Help Trail Blazers Sweep Timberwolves

03/02/13
  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0

    BY ERIK GUNDERSEN

    Damian Lillard led the Trail Blazers (27-31) from the get-go with 24 points. The Trail Blazers led for almost the entire night, as they eventually beat the Minnesota Timberwolves (20-35). JJ Hickson notched his 32nd double-double of the season with 18 points and 14 rebounds. The win helped the Trail Blazers complete a season sweep of Minnesota.

    Before the game and after the firs few minutes, the story surrounding this game was centered around a player who has only played in five games this season and has been inactive for quite some time. That player was former Trail Blazers guard Brandon Roy, who made his first visit to the Rose Garden since coming out of retirement and joining the Timberwolves. Roy said he was "excited" to be back in the Rose Garden and at the first T.V. timeout, Roy was shown on the jumbotron and greeted with a standing ovation.

    "He deserves it," said Nicolas Batum, who finished with 12 points and seven rebounds and joined the Rose Garden's applause for Roy. "That's normal for what he did for this team, this city for the last seven years I think, that's huge. That's huge, even if you can never tell what's going to happen with him in the future, but he's still a big part of this franchise. He's one of the best players of all time, so he deserved that."

    "He's definitely one of the great players that played here. That was owed to him," said Aldridge about the ovation for Roy.

    As for the game itself, there wasn't a whole lot of suspense. The mood was considerably subdued for most of the game, as the Trail Blazers dominated the first quarter and were able to hold on for a rare double-digit victory. Portland's bench players aided a solid effort from the starters as they took care of business against struggling and injury-depleted Timberwolves team.

    "It was a solid win for us. Obviously, Minnesota is playing with injuries and that certainly makes a difference but from our standpoint, we came out with good energy, good execution, offensive rebounds were a help, transition was good," said Terry Stotts.

    The Trail Blazers bench had what was probably their best game of the season. Meyers Leonard scored 12 points and grabbed eight rebounds in 22 minutes while Victor Claver scored 10 points and grabbed three rebounds. Eric Maynor led the Trail Blazers with 12 assists to go along with seven points.

    Leonard continued his solid stretch of play. Including tonight's game, Leonard is averaging 9.3 points with a very high rebound percentage of 21.3 percent (meaning he is grabbing 21.3 percent of all available rebounds while he is on the floor). If averaged for a season, that rate would be near the tops in the NBA. Leonard says he is feeling more comfortable and isn't thinking about what he is doing on the offensive end, which he attributes to getting more reps.

    "I could tell you every play we have from almost every position," Leonard said. "It's was just sometimes I would be thinking too much. I wouldn't react quick enough or I'd catch the ball and instead of shooting it I'd pump fake." And Leonard continues to explain his thinking in those situation, "and now he's closing out, now I've got to skip the ball, now we have a short shot clock. It's all about anticipation, reaction and just playing your game."

    Stotts was pleased with his play once again.

    "I'd have to go through the games, but that may have been one of his better games if not his best game. He did it at both ends of the floor. He made his jump shots. Offensively, he was effective. Defensively, he was much more alert. When he rebounded, he outlet the ball well. It seems like in the last week, he's really focused on some things he needs to do."

    Eric Maynor not only helped spell Damian Lillard some, but he played most of his minutes alongside him. Maynor was able to find players all night long on his way to a career high in assists. Lillard says he enjoys having a player along side him who sees the game through a similar lens. Maynor's 12 assists were also a season high for the Trail Blazers.

    "It's fun. To have somebody else that sees everything that's going on on the floor and I know he's a point guard so I know he sees what I see. He's thinking what point guards think when you bring the ball up the floor. You're looking for guys in their spots and it also makes it a lot easier when I'm not the guy the defense can set up their pick and roll defense right away. A lot of the times I'm on the weak side catching the ball and it's hard for them to get in their coverage, that makes it a lot easier to score the ball."

    Maynor not only made life easier on Lillard, but also on his friend Wesley Matthews, whom he spelled most of the night and only played 23 minutes as he continues to play through ankle and elbow injuries.

    Claver scored eight of his 10 points in the second half, including a three-pointer and a tough contested shot with the shot clock winding down.

    LaMarcus Aldridge also had a lighter workload this evening as he only totaled 29:40 on the night compared to his nightly average of 37.9 minutes. Aldridge said it felt "weird" only playing that much, especially in the second quarter when he was more stiff than normal after a longer-than-normal first-half rest.

    Derrick WIlliams led the way for the Timberwolves with 22 points and eight rebounds while Ricky Rubio flirted with a triple-double, finishing with 12 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.

    JJ Hickson also continued to add on to his franchise record of consecutive games shooting over 50 percent, extending it to 21. It's the fifth-longest such streak in the NBA since the beginning of the 2007-08 season.

    It was a night that was at once filled with emotion but devoid of drama as the Trail Blazers simply took care of their business.

    The Trail Blazers next game is on Monday against the Charlotte Bobcats, their last game at home before they go on a three game road trip. Tip-off is set for 7PM and the game will be shown on CSNNW and can be heard on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.

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