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Timberwolves fall to Trail Blazers, still can't get over .500 hump again

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Just when the Timberwolves rid themselves of one statistical anomaly, another old one popped up again with Saturday night's 115-104 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.

One night after they won their first game decided by four points or fewer all season with a 121-120 victory at Golden State, the Wolves failed to push themselves over .500 for the 10th game in a row, a streak that stretches to the night before Thanks--giving. They were battered and bruised and overmatched by the league's most surprising success story so far this season.

"Well, it's a back-to-back game against one of the best teams in the league," Wolves coach Rick Adelman said afterward. "It's not going to be an easy game."

And it certainly wasn't. Adelman tried to find some rest for hurting starters Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, but he had to keep calling upon both as well as Kevin Martin for his scoring during a game when the disparity between the starters and reserves proved problematic yet again.

The Blazers bench primarily put this one away, outscoring their Wolves counterparts 35-14. Portland reserves were responsible for a pair of 16-4 runs -- one that opened the second quarter, the other that arrived midway through the fourth -- that pushed the Blazers to their first double-digit lead and then allowed them to stretch an 89-84 lead with 10 minutes left into an 105-88 bulge with 51/2 minutes to play.

The Wolves starters -- particularly the scoring of Martin (30 points) and Nikola Pekovic (23 points, 11 rebounds) and Ricky Rubio's aggressive attacks -- tried to keep their team close. But with Love playing on a sore knee he banged Friday in Oakland and Rubio playing on a sprained ankle suffered there as well, Adelman couldn't keep them on the floor long enough to counter the 16 points Portland got from veteran Mo Williams as well as the valuable contributions from fellow reserves Thomas Robinson and rookie C.J. McCollum.

"Just trying to stay in the game," Adelman said.

Another Love-LaMarcus Aldridge matchup at power forward turned into what Love called "much ado about nothing," the two nearly canceling each other out while teammates assumed center stage. Love was limited to 15 points and 13 rebounds, both because of his knee and what he called the Blazers' commitment to take him out of the offense.

"This morning was one of those times when you jump out of bed and you think I don't how I'm going to play tonight," Love said. "But you muster up the energy to get do so: Get a good meal, get a good nap and lace them up and hopefully the adrenaline flows, which I think it did for some of us."

Afterward, Rubio sat at his locker soaking his ankle in ice while his left hand was wrapped in ice as well. He played 37 minutes, Love 36 and Martin more than 41. Meanwhile, Chase Budinger was the only Wolves reserve who played more than 12 minutes.

Backup J.J. Barea played fewer than 11 minutes, not because of a bruised back suffered Friday but, Adelman said, rather because the coach believed he needed to keep his starters on the floor.

"Hanging in there, you know," Rubio said about his physical condition. "This is the NBA. You play almost every night and when you get hurt, either you sit down or you give whatever you have. I did tonight. I was feeling good. I keep playing."

The Wolves (21-22) haven't been over .500 since they were 8-7 on Nov. 23.

"It was tough today against a good team after back-to-back," Rubio said. "We're not looking where we're at instead of our record. We just to get every night and play good and the record is going to come."

(c)2014 Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

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