From throwing down dunks to swatting shots and even running the fast break, Greg Oden sure looked like a franchise center Wednesday night.
MINNEAPOLIS — From throwing down dunks to swatting shots and even running the fast break, Greg Oden sure looked like a franchise center Wednesday night.
Two seasons removed from microfracture knee surgery, Oden may finally be starting to fulfill the promise of a No. 1 overall pick.
Oden had 18 points and 11 rebounds in three quarters to lead the Portland Trail Blazers to a 107-84 victory over the struggling Minnesota Timberwolves.
"He's slowly showing some things that we haven't seen him do," coach Nate McMillan said. "He makes good decisions. I think he's a good passer. I think he's very patient on the block."
Rudy Fernandez added 15 points for the Blazers, who have won four in a row and are off to their best start since 1999 at 6-3.
Jonny Flynn had 15 points and six rebounds for the Timberwolves, who have lost eight in a row since a season-opening win over New Jersey.
"The pattern continues with our guys," coach Kurt Rambis said. "They have some moments of playing some pretty good ball and doing the right things. And then they had collapses in the second quarter and collapses coming out of the locker room in the second half."
Oden was the No. 1 overall pick in 2007. But he missed his first season because of a knee injury, then was underwhelming in 61 games for the Blazers last season.
Against the smaller Timberwolves, he looked like the dominant player he was at Ohio State. Oden commanded double- and triple-teams in the post, challenged shots on defense and threw down dunk after rim-rattling dunk against a Timberwolves team that is looking more confused and overwhelmed by the day.
"Any time you have a player that two (people) have to commit to, it puts pressure on that defense," McMillan said. "It becomes all about spacing and those guys making decisions with the ball. Greg is slowly becoming that type of player."
Al Jefferson, who is still recovering from knee surgery in February and has not yet regained the lift in his legs, was no match for Oden on the interior. Giving up two inches and at least 20 pounds, Jefferson was consistently overpowered down low, and his teammates were usually late getting over to help.
"He's just so big and strong and he overpowers everybody on our team," Rambis said.
Jefferson finished with 14 points and six rebounds.
Oden's alley-oop dunk from Roy gave Portland a 58-46 lead early in the third quarter, and the Blazers cruised the rest of the way for the easy victory.
"I just think I'm playing pretty decent," Oden said. "Coach put me in that starting lineup and I just want to go out there and bring what I can to the table to make this team better."
The big man even ran the break with LaMarcus Aldridge in the second quarter, finishing a 2-on-1 with a tomahawk jam to get things rolling.
"I was real nervous," Oden said with a smile. "You seen me looking around, I was looking for somebody to pass to. I'm not used to taking it up like that."
The Timberwolves know their first year under Rambis and new president David Kahn is going to be a long one. From the start, Rambis has emphasized energy and effort over victory every step of the way. After spirited efforts early against the Celtics, Suns and Clippers, the Wolves have looked frustrated and disillusioned at times lately.
They lost 116-93 at Portland on Sunday, then gave up franchise-record 146 points to the lowly Warriors on Monday.
"That's one thing about dealing with a young team, when your head gets down, it's hard to pick it back up," Jefferson said. "Right now, we let teams hit us and we're not even hitting back."
NOTES: Blazers C Joel Przybilla, a native of small-town Monticello and former University of Minnesota star, swatted a dunk attempt by Corey Brewer in the third period. Two fans said, "You don't bring that into Stearns County!" Actually, Monticello is in Wright County, but close enough. ... The Wolves were so bad defensively that Portland executed a rare point guard-to-point guard alley oop in the fourth when Jerryd Bayless threw down a pass from Andre Miller, who had 10 assists.