PORTLAND (AP) — The best way to win, Terry Stotts told his Portland Trail Blazers, was to not let their opponents hang around in games.
The Minnesota Timberwolves found out the hard way.
Damian Lillard scored 24 points, J.J. Hickson added 18 points and 16 rebounds and the Trail Blazers took an early lead and never looked back in a 109-94 win over the Timberwolves on Saturday night.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 17 points and eight rebounds for Portland, which had six players score in double-figures. The Blazers were up by 10 points in the first quarter and led by as many as 18, while the Timberwolves never challenged.
That’s been a rarity for the Blazers, who have had problems sustaining leads this season.
“Even at shootaround, we were talking about how we can’t play down to the level of this team even though they’re hurt,” Hickson said. “We just wanted to come out and play our game and we did that tonight.”
Derrick Williams had 23 points and eight rebounds to lead the short-handed Wolves, who have dropped their last five games and 21 of 25. Luke Ridnour added 18 points and six assists, and former Blazer Dante Cunningham had 16 points and eight rebounds off the bench.
The Blazers entered the game having lost eight of their last nine to fall back in the playoff hunt. Portland is in 10th place in the Western Conference, behind the L.A. Lakers and Houston. The Blazers’ only win since Feb. 4 was last Sunday over Boston.
“I really like the demeanor we came out with in this game,” Stotts said. “We addressed that, and guys really took it to heart.”
Injured Timberwolves guard Brandon Roy returned to the Rose Garden for the first time since coming out of retirement to join Minnesota last summer. Roy was a three-time All-Star and NBA rookie of the year in Portland before deteriorating knees forced him to quit after the 2010-11 season. He is still beloved in Portland, where he was the biggest star since Clyde Drexler.
Sitting on the bench in a dress shirt and tie, Roy received a standing ovation from the crowd when he was shown on the big screen during a second quarter timeout. Roy hasn’t played since undergoing his seventh knee surgery on Nov. 19, “but I’m still excited to be here and see the fans,” he said before the game.
Roy’s injury is far from Minnesota’s only problem. The Wolves were missing three starters — leading scorer and rebounder Kevin Love (broken hand), forward Andrei Kirilenko (calf) and center Nikola Pekovic (abdominal strain).
“It’s hard when you’re missing players, especially scorers like Kevin, Pek and Kirilenko,” said Minnesota guard Ricky Rubio, who had 12 points and nine assists. “It’s something we have to face every night — play the players we have and fight until the end.”
The Wolves shot just 39 percent from the field and made just one of 12 3-point attempts.