The Portland Trail Blazers’ victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves embodies how the team needs to play as they approach the playoffs, according to Joe Freeman of the Oregonian. The Blazers only have five games left in their season, and while they are missing key players Jusuf Nurkic and CJ McCollum, it is clear from the win against the Timberwolves that the remainder of the team can step up and be successful when they play together.
“It’s not really about the firepower, it’s about how well we can make stuff happen collectively,” Lillard said. “It’s about the sum of our parts. We may be short two of our best three players, but we have to figure out how to get the most out of what we have. Once we get the most out of what we have, then we’ll see … is it enough?”
While Freeman points out that the Blazers stumbled against the Pistons over the weekend, largely due to Detroit’s oppressive defense, Lillard suggests that it is a problem they will have to solve to get over the hurdle.
“In our actions, there’s going to be traps and double-teams,” Lillard said. “But (lately), they even try to make me work to get the ball out of bounds. So it’s like a double-team full-court. They’ve got two people to stop me. I’ve got to get open to get the inbound pass and then there’s another guy guarding me full-court. Sometimes, they’re sending two people. They’re just trying to wear me out.”
Freeman’s piece makes it clear that other players will have to contribute down the stretch for the Blazers to be successful in the postseason, as demonstrated by Rodney Hood stepping up against the Timberwolves with 21 points, and Enes Kanter, who made strong contributions in Detroit and Minneapolis, with 20 points and 15 rebounds against the Pistons and 20 points and 11 rebounds against the Timberwolves. There is limited time for tweaking the lineup, and therefore it is even more essential that every player step up—even the role players.
You can read Freeman’s piece here.