The Trail Blazers finished their five-game road trip with a 116-102 loss to the Timberwolves. The large deficit led to a shortened night for both Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Down by 26 points heading into the fourth quarter, coach Terry Stotts unleashed the reserves, providing the starters with some much-needed rest. Hassan Whiteside, who was battling an illness entering the game, was visibly impacted by his cold throughout the night.
For the Wolves, Andrew Wiggins provided 23 points and eight assists in Minnesota’s runaway 14-point victory.
The Blazers opening possession featured a crisp driving finish from CJ McCollum. That level of effectiveness would evaporate over the next three minutes. Neither Portland or Minnesota could put together points, leading to sequences that ended in shot clock violations and turnovers. The tides turned when the Blazers found space from beyond the arc. McCollum, Hassan Whiteside, Damian Lillard and Gary Trent Jr. combined to produce five three-pointers on just nine attempts.
Led by crisp shooting and inspired play from their reserves, the Blazers finished the quarter ahead 34-28.
Portland’s three-point well ran dry in the second quarter. Stuck in neutral, the Wolves sped to the hoop and past the Blazers in the early moments of the frame. Through five minutes, Minnesota completed a 14-2 run to secure a comfortable lead. Lillard attempted to stymie the Wolves’ advance by getting to the rim. After temporarily stalling Minnesota’s run, Andrew Wiggins emerged to keep the pressure on with well-timed passes and attempts in transition. Wiggins recorded nine points and four assists in the quarter.
The Blazers defense provided little-to-no resistance in the paint, allowing the Wolves to enter the locker room with a 59-47 lead.
The intermission didn’t provide the Blazers with a much-needed post-break jolt. Along with getting to the rim, the Wolves heated up from beyond arc en route to six three-pointers in the quarter. Outside of a few pick-and-pop looks from Whiteside, Portland failed to keep pace with Minnesota’s high-octane offense.
The Wolves shot 61 percent from the field in the quarter, pushing their lead to 100-74.
Trailing by 26, the Blazers featured a reserve-heavy lineup to start the final period. Jaylen Hoard, a rookie on a two-way contract, received an audition that started late in the third quarter. Hoard notched eight points and four rebounds in 17 minutes of second-half action.
The Blazers’ reserves put up a fight, but the Wolves’ massive third-quarter lead allowed them to cruise to a 116-102 victory.
The Blazers overcame their poor defense with superb shooting in the first quarter. Once the shots stopped falling, the Wolves offense ran away with the contest. Due to Whiteside’s cold, Portland’s interior defense was especially bad tonight. In transition and in half-court sets, Minnesota flawlessly imposed their will.
The Blazers entered Thursday’s contest injury depleted, battling illness, and near the end of a five-game road trip. Outside of the first quarter, those three circumstances dominated the contest.
The Blazers return to the Moda Center to host Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks on Saturday.