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Timberwolves

Johnson’s Boost Early Lifts Wolves Over Blazers

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Wesley Johnson #4 of the Minnesota Timberwolves handles the ball during a game against the Houston Rockets on January 24, 2011 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (credit: David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

Wesley Johnson #4 of the Minnesota Timberwolves handles the ball during a game against the Houston Rockets on January 24, 2011 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (credit: David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Wes Johnson scored 19 points to back Kevin Love’s 29 points and 16 rebounds in the Minnesota Timberwolves’ 106-94 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night.

Johnson went 3 of 4 on 3-pointers and Luke Ridnour added 22 points for the Timberwolves (21-19), who moved into the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff race. They own the tiebreaker over Houston, which lost earlier Wednesday.

LaMarcus Aldridge scored 22 points and Gerald Wallace had 13 points, nine assists and nine rebounds for the Blazers, who have lost four of their last five games.

Aldridge went 2 for 3 from the free throw line — his first foul shots in four games — but was badly outplayed by Love for the second straight game. He was held to just five points in the second half and two in the fourth quarter.

Love was 3 of 5 behind the arc and played the entire second half to help the Wolves outlast the Blazers for their fifth win in seven games.

Raymond Felton had 23 points and nine assists for the Blazers, who cut the deficit to six points with 4:15 to play.

But Ridnour hit a 3 and a pair of free throws, and former Blazer Martell Webster knocked down another from behind the arc for a 102-88 lead that put away the game.

Jamal Crawford, who has been linked to Minnesota in trade rumors recently, had just six points on 3-for-13 shooting.

Love scored 15 points in the first quarter, hitting all three of his 3-pointers to get the Wolves going. But it was Johnson’s out-of-nowhere complementary play that made all the difference.

The second-year wing has been a massive disappointment since he was taken with the fourth overall pick before last season. He struggled to find his shooting touch and gave the Wolves almost nothing offensively from a position geared toward big production in Rick Adelman’s system.

When the Wolves chose him over DeMarcus Cousins, they thought they were getting an NBA-ready swingman who could knock down open shots and be a factor around the rim with rebounds and putbacks.

That’s exactly what they got — finally — on Wednesday night.

He scored 10 points in the first quarter, hitting a rare jumper off the dribble, two 3-pointers and building off that as the game went on. Showing the first real signs of his standout days at Syracuse, he threw down two put-back dunks and fed Love for a pretty three-point play.

Aldridge went to the bench early in the first quarter after picking up two quick fouls, but got rolling in the second quarter with 13 points.

He did most of his damage while Love rested on the bench, feasting on Darko Milicic, who got his second straight start for the injured Nikola Pekovic.

It was the fifth straight home win for the Timberwolves, who desperately need to capitalize on this homestand if they want to be considered serious playoff contenders. They beat the Clippers on Monday night and have games against the Lakers on Friday night and the Hornets on Saturday before embarking on a seven-game road trip that could define their season.

NOTES: Timberwolves G J.J. Barea limped off the court with a left ankle injury midway through the fourth quarter and did not return. … Wolves PG Ricky Rubio had eight points and four assists in 27 minutes. … Pekovic said he didn’t think his sore foot was going to be a long-term injury. “A few days,” he said. … Crawford was averaging 17.4 points on 55 percent shooting in his previous five games.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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