The Portland Trail Blazers fought tooth and nail with the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Moda Center tonight in a game that barely saw a double-digit lead for either team. With 60 seconds remaining, the score was knotted up at 105. Late threes put the Blazers over the top for the 113-105 victory, but Portland’s opportunities were built on the back of the best player on the floor, center Jusuf Nurkic.
Jusuf Nurkic destroyed the Timberwolves in the first 8 minutes of the game, accumulating 8 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, a steal, and an inspirational block during that stretch. It was an awesome display early.
Meyers Leonard, on the other hand, earned 3 personal fouls in his first 3 minutes of play. Wah-wah-waaaaaaaaaaaahhhh.
Assists come at a cost
The Blazers generated almost 2⁄3 of their field goals off of assists in the first half, but they also committed a boatload of turnovers trying to get there.
Even with all the energy, improved teamwork, excellent rebounding, and Nurkic making like a campfire in a marshmallow factory, the Blazers finished the half up only two.
Pulling away in the third...for a minute
At the start of the third period the Blazers keyed a strong run with defense and ball movement. A blocked shot by Moe Harkless off of good team defense followed by a Lillard three took Portland’s lead from 2 to 7 in a heartbeat. They eventually got it up to 10, courtesy of a Harkless three, but they failed to defend the lane and thus gave it all back again.
As the World Turners
Evan Turner pushed the Blazers forward early in the fourth quarter, hitting mid-range shots and dishing to teammates. The ‘Wolves stayed hot too, but Turner made that an inconvenience rather than a disaster.
Guard vs. Guard
Derrick Rose and Jeff Teague played strong to close the fourth, but Nurkic kept Karl-Anthony Towns in check, robbing the Timberwolves of a serious potential advantage. After Rose and Teague did their damage, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum stepped up, scoring in the lane to erase the slight lead the ‘Wolves had built on the backs of their guards.
The game was still tied with a minute left. Then Lillard hit a deep three and McCollum followed up with one of his own. This happened just as the Timberwolves missed back-to-back open corner threes, followed by another deep miss by Karl-Anthony Towns. The disparity in triples put the Blazers on a 17-3 scoring run to finish the game, yielding the final score of 113-105.
55% shooting in the fourth drove the Blazers to the win, but everything they did was set up by the phenomenal play of Nurkic on both ends. This was his game and nobody else’s. He finished with 22 points on 7-10 shooting, 8-9 from the foul line, 11 rebounds (8 offensive), 4 assists, 3 steals, 4 blocks, 6 turnovers, all while holding Towns to 6-16 shooting on the evening.
Stay tuned for Steve Dewald’s extended look at the game a little later.
The win pushes Portland to 15-11 on the season. Here’s the boxscore.