PORTLAND, Ore. — From 18 points ahead in the second quarter to 14 points behind in the fourth quarter, the Minnesota Timberwolves are back to even after two games on a five-game Western trip after Sunday night's 108-97 loss at Portland.
The shine from Kevin Love's first career triple-double in Saturday's victory at Utah disappeared just before halftime Sunday at Moda Center after the Wolves had grabbed the momentum from Saturday's 121-104 victory over the Jazz and used it to throttle the Trail Blazers early in Sunday's game.
Then everything changed.
The Blazers ended the first half by scoring its final eight points and the Wolves - playing the second part of back-to-back games with three players still out injured ï¿½ wilted in a second half against a Portland team that has injury issues of its own.
Second-year point guard Damian Lillard led the Blazers back with a 32-point performance on a night when Love set a franchise record by scoring 30 or more points for the fifth consecutive game, this time with a 31-point night.
The Wolves played without injured top centers Nikola Pekovic and Ronny Turiaf as well as starting guard Kevin Martin while the Blazers were without All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge and fellow big men Joel Freeland and Meyers Leonard.
Before the game, someone asked Portland coach Terry Stotts if the two teams maybe shouldn't just make it a 6-foot and under game.
"No," he said. "Let's play the real thing."
The real thing swung wildly from one extreme to another, from a Wolves' 18-point, second-quarter lead to a Blazers' 22-5 run that ended the first half and began the second.
The Blazers trailed 60-44 with fewer than three minutes remaining in the second quarter and led 92-84 by little more than three minutes into the fourth quarter, thanks to Lillard's scoring and an active 14-point, 17-rebound performance from reserve forward Thomas Robinson off the bench.
Lillard and Love dueled all night, with Lillard ultimately winning the competition by a point, 32-31.
Robinson supplied one of the highlight moments of the night on a soaring block that met Wolves springy forward Corey Brewer's elevation inch for inch and produced a roar from the home crowd that only grew more thunderous when Will Barton ended the sequence soon after with an alley-oop dunk at the other end.
The Wolves led 13-7, 25-14 and 34-26 before first quarter's end and led by as many as 18 in the second quarter before the Blazers scored the first half's final eight points unanswered to cut a 60-44 deficit with 2:26 left to 60-52 at intermission.
The Blazers defended Love's long touchdown outlet passes to Brewer ï¿½ the kind that helped Love reach his first career triple-double Saturday in Utah with a 37-point, 12-rebound, 10-assist night ï¿½ by throwing bodies at himself and attempting to block the ball as he turned and looked way down court.