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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Making his first All-Star team has put a big ol’ target on Kevin Love’s back.
A motivated LaMarcus Aldridge and the Portland Trail Blazers were hitting it hard all night long.
Aldridge had 21 points, six boards and five assists and the Blazers stifled Love on both ends of the court in a 95-81 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night.
Wesley Matthews scored 23 points and Dante Cunningham had career highs with 18 points and 13 rebounds for the Blazers, who were out to show that their guy Aldridge should be going to Los Angeles instead of Love.
The Blazers have now won 16 straight games against the Timberwolves and five in a row overall, their longest winning streak of the season.
“I think people put more emphasis on it than I did,” Aldridge said. “I think this was just another game. I don’t think I tried to do more than I’ve done all season, what I’ve done lately. I think I played within myself, passed up shots for better shots. It’s just me.”
Love finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds, just barely extending his double-double streak to 41 games, the longest since Moses Malone had 44 in a row in the 1982-83 season. He only attempted seven shots and was outworked all night by Cunningham and Aldridge.
“I did feel like they were coming at me,” Love said. “A lot of the time they were hitting rebounds out when they saw I could get a hand on it. But it wasn’t an advantage or disadvantage.”
Martell Webster led the Wolves with 17 points, but Minnesota got just one point, no rebounds and no assists combined from starters Jonny Flynn, Corey Brewer and Wes Johnson.
The Blazers held Minnesota to 39 percent shooting and scored 22 points off 18 Timberwolves turnovers. They started the game on an 18-2 run and never led by fewer than 10 points in the second half.
Rudy Fernandez scored 18 points off the bench and Portland out-rebounded the best rebounding team in the league, 41-35. The Blazers are now 21-11 without star guard Brandon Roy, who has been on the shelf after having arthroscopic surgery on both knees.
Coach Nate McMillan said before the game he still wasn’t sure when Roy and injured center Marcus Camby would return, but Aldridge has the Blazers humming right along without them.
Aldridge has always been productive, but he’s really blossomed since Roy went down. He was named Western Conference player of the week on Monday after averaging 38.3 points in the previous three games.
“Since the announcement of the All-Stars, his play hasn’t dropped off,” McMillan said. “It’s gotten even better.”
Commissioner David Stern chose Love, the league’s leading rebounder and one of its best 3-point shooters, over Aldridge to replace the injured Yao Ming in the All-Star Game on Sunday.
In his first matchup against Love since the snub, Aldridge came out ultra-aggressive. He scored 11 points on 5-for-9 shooting and tried to throw down a massive dunk right over Love in the paint, but had it bounce off the back iron.
“We need it. It’s not about an All-Star snub or anything like that,” Aldridge insisted. “It’s about closing out this stretch well.”
The hard-nosed Blazers defense also held Love, who again didn’t have fellow scorer Michael Beasley because of a sprained ankle, without a field goal attempt for the first 20 minutes.
It was another flat home performance for the Wolves, who are 0-4 at Target Center in February and have lost those games by an average of 16.2 points. They’ve been hurting for fan support for several years, but the Target Center attendance on Monday night was glaring even by their standards.
The Wolves announced a crowd of 11,227, but far fewer were actually in attendance. In the second quarter, seven fans were counted sitting in sections 218-224 of the upper level. Those sections wrap the back of the building from one corner to the other behind one basket.
Webster said it’s on the Wolves to play better to get the fans more interested, but added that “it would be really nice to hear these great fans be a little bit louder out there because we feed off their energy as well.”
“It’s kind of tough when you come in here and all you hear is echoes from the basketball hitting the floor,” Webster said. “They might be waiting for us to make something happen. We want them to be loud, I’ll tell you that.”
NOTES: Blazers C Sean Marks got some run in the third quarter while Cunningham and Joel Przybilla were on the bench in foul trouble. He hit a 3-pointer in the corner, his second long-range shot this year. … The Timberwolves will host their 16th annual “Taste of the Timberwolves” event on Tuesday night, with all funds raised going to the team’s FastBreak Foundation that benefits local youth organizations.
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