Wiggins, Timberwolves face Blazers in Portland
PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Minnesota Timberwolves had two players named as reserves to the West team for the NBA All-Star Game on Tuesday, but coach Tim Thibodeau believes he can make a case for a third.
Thibodeau was singing the praises of Andrew Wiggins after his 40-point explosion helped the Timberwolves beat the Los Angeles Clippers 126-118 Monday night.
"Sometimes players get measured statistically," said Thibodeau, whose team visits Portland on Wednesday night to face the Trail Blazers at Moda Center. "When you look at guys who impact winning, (Wiggins') impact has been great. And that's the most important stat there is."
Shooting guard Jimmy Butler and center Karl-Anthony Towns were both named All-Stars, but Wiggins has had the hot hand, including a 29-point outburst against Toronto on Saturday. The 6-foot-8 small forward has swung over to shooting guard the last two games in the absence of Butler (knee), who is questionable for Wednesday's game along with his backup, Jamal Crawford (toe).
"I don't know if I put the voodoo on him, but I told him he was going to get 40 tonight," Towns said after the Clippers game. "He made me look good. He was playing spirited basketball. It just seemed like we were in Staples Center watching a young Kobe play out there."
Taking Butler's place in the starting lineup has been forward Nemanja Bjelica, who knocked down three 3-pointers while collecting 18 points, nine rebounds and four assists against the Clippers.
Minnesota (31-18) has won two in a row and seven of nine. The Wolves, who have matched their win total of a year ago and are in third place in the Western Conference, are 24-7 against West teams this season.
The Trail Blazers (25-22) have an All-Star, too, after point guard Damian Lillard was named as a reserve. That was some solace after Portland squandered a seven-point lead with five minutes remaining in a 104-101 loss at Denver on Monday.
After leading 93-86, the Blazers were outscored 18-8 the rest of the way.
"I'm frustrated that we didn't finish," said Lillard, who collected 25 points and eight assists against the Nuggets. "We didn't do the things down the stretch that would have allowed us to close the door."
"We had plenty of opportunities left to finish them off," said CJ McCollum, who was held to 12 points on 3-for-14 shooting. "With two minutes left, we were up. With one minute left, we were up."
Minnesota won 108-107 on Dec. 18 at Target Center in the only previous meeting between the teams this season.
This is Lillard's third trip to the All-Star Game. He previously made it in 2014 and '15.
"This time is different," Lillard said. "(The previous years) I was on a team of vets. This one is on a team I've been the leader of. I had to really earn my spot this time around. It feels like I've done three years of work for this one spot."
Updated January 23, 2018