The Minnesota Timberwolves will look for their third win in four games Saturday night when they play host to the Portland Trail Blazers.
They may need to do it without star power forward Kevin Love, who left Thursday's win over the Denver Nuggets with a finger sprain. Without Love, though, guards Alexey Shved and J.J. Barea carried the way, especially in the fourth quarter.
Shved had nine of the T-Wolves' last 12 points and Barea went off for 12 points and five assists in the final frame, helping Minnesota to a 101-97 road victory over the Nuggets.
The two scored 17 apiece to lead the way for Minnesota. Luke Ridnour and Andrei Kirilenko each had 14 and Love netted 12 and grabbed 17 rebounds before he departed. Love's availability for Saturday night is in question, but do the Wolves need him if the guards play that well?
"It was amazing," head coach Rick Adelman said. "J.J. was unbelievable. He kept us going around their big guys and getting to the basket, and Luke made a couple and I thought Alexey (Shved) played well the whole game to keep us in it. It's just one of those games you don't expect with everything that's gone on and going on a trip to Utah and Denver and they are rested and we came in and won."
The Trail Blazers will polish off a four-game road trip on Saturday night. So far, the Blazers are 2-1 with wins in arguably the two toughest buildings in the NBA. Portland beat the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden and the Memphis Grizzlies Friday night at FedEx Forum, 86-84.
The story was the normal one for the Trail Blazers, the starters played great and the bench not so much. All five Portland starters scored in double figures and played over 36 minutes.
Wesley Matthews netted a team-high 21 points on 5-for-8 3-point shooting. J.J. Hickson had 19 points and 11 rebounds and LaMarcus Aldridge also had a double- double with 15 and 12 boards.
Memphis is the NBA's best defensive team, holding opponents to an average of 89.67 ppg. The Grizzlies are used to close, tight games, but Friday's fourth quarter was ultra-tight. The Blazers won the period, 14-12 to leave Memphis with the victory.
"It's really weird. Memphis is used to playing these types of games and we haven't," said head coach Terry Stotts. "To win a game in that style is a lot about our growth as a team. You have to win all kinds of ways in this league. When you win one on the road against a team that is used to playing like that it's a good sign for us."
The Trail Blazers are 18-2 in their last 20 against the Timberwolves, including a 103-95 victory on Nov. 23 in Portland.