MINNEAPOLIS — Boasting one of the youngest rosters in the NBA, the Minnesota Timberwolves, at least on this night, came of age.
Rookie forward Andrew Wiggins, the top pick in the NBA Draft last summer, scored 23 points as the Timberwolves snapped a six-game losing streak with a 90-82 win over the Portland Trail Blazers Wednesday at Target Center.
The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for Portland and was just their second defeat in their past 16 games.
“Well, the baby Wolves grew up a bit at times,” Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said. (Wiggins) looked like the No. 1 pick tonight, just in his ability to get shots, take things over and take big shots at the end.”
In addition to his offense, Wiggins also grabbed 10 rebounds and had perhaps the game’s biggest highlight.
With Minnesota leading by 12 in the final seconds of the third period, Portland had a four-on-one fast break but could not capitalize. Wiggins forced a turnover and won a battle on the floor for a loose ball, getting an outlet pass to guard Corey Brewer, who drained a three-pointer as time expired, pushing the Minnesota lead to 15 heading to the final quarter.
“I think that was the biggest play of the night,” Wiggins said.
Minnesota started the second half on a 10-2 run to open up a 16-point lead, and led by as much as 20 in the third quarter. The Wolves maintained a double-digit lead until the middle of the fourth quarter, when back-to-back threes by Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge and guard Wesley Matthews brought Portland to within six.
Center Robin Lopez’s lay-up made it a four-point game with 5:13 to play but five straight points by Wiggins put the Timberwolves ahead by nine with under three minutes remaining.
Brewer chipped in with 19 points, eight rebounds and five steals and was a perfect 10 for 10 from the line including four big free throws in the closing minutes.
“We needed this,” Brewer said. “That’s what we’ve got to do if we’re going to get wins, we’ve got to play hard like we did tonight and we’ve got to play with each other. I feel like we passed the ball and we played together.
At 28 years old, Brewer was the second-oldest player (by one month) available for Minnesota and nine years older than rookie point guard Zach Lavine, who joined him in the Wolves starting backcourt.
“He showed good vocal leadership,” Saunders said.
Portland point guard Damian Lillard led the Trail Blazers with 23 points. Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge was held to 10 points on 3-of-14 shooting.
Portland’s 36 points in the first half was its fewest in a half this season. The Trail Blazers also were held to a season-low in points and their 20 turnovers were a season-high.
“I thought Minnesota did a nice job defensively,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “They double-teamed (Aldridge) and we weren’t able to take advantage of that early in the game and put some doubt in their mind.
Aldridge was held without a point until the 4:11 mark of the third quarter. It was the first time since Feb. 4, 2008 Aldridge was held without a point in a half.
“I really couldn’t get in a rhythm,” Aldridge said. “Every time I’d try to find one, they’d come double me again. Their whole thing was to take me out tonight and they did.”
“We know he’s the engine that makes him go. When he’s playing well, other guys start getting easy buckets,” Brewer said. Tonight, we tried to take him away early and it worked out.”
A dunk by Wiggins gave Minnesota its first double-digit lead of the game at 40-29. Wiggins had 12 points as the Wolves held a 44-36 lead at halftime.
NOTES: Portland scored 16 points in the first quarter, tying the Blazers season-low for points in a quarter. Their 15 points in the third established a new low-water mark. … The Blazers attempted a season-high 35 three-point field goals, but connected on only 10 (28.6 percent). … Timberwolves PG Mo Williams sat out the game due to back spasms. He missed his fourth game in a row and isn’t likely to return to the lineup until next week. … Timberwolves F Shabazz Muhammad received acupuncture treatment on his sore left ankle, but he remained a key contributor off the bench by scoring 11 points in 27 minutes.
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