From the onset it was clear that Lillard was determined to put the memory of Tuesday’s collapse to Chicago behind them, busting out of the gates with clear “I’m the leader of a team that is mightily underperforming” edge. The all-star scored 6 of the team’s first 8 points, and 15 of his game-high 39 points in the first quarter, setting the tone for what would become an offensive clinic. He wasted no time breaking open his bag of tricks, mixing up long-range faders with contorting finishes at the rim. The Wolves had no answer for him.
Still, the game was by no means in the bag. Yet.
To their credit, Minnesota hung around early behind the jump shooting of D’Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley, and even led by one point heading into the second period, but when it came to the battle of the second units, the Blazers found their groove. The bench squad led by Carmelo Anthony and Enes Kanter absolutely feasted on the Wolves’ young and inexperienced pups, quickly amassing a 15-point lead that would provide more than enough breathing room for the rest of the night.
In just the second quarter, Portland nearly couldn’t miss from beyond the arc, going an almost-perfect 8-9 from deep on their way to a season-best 47 points, which should tell you all you need to know about Minnesota’s defense. If the Blazers’ defense is bad, the Wolves’ needs an intervention. Portland was able to keep hoisting shots with ease while Minnesota looked like they were given the wrong scouting report. When the stars aligned, and a defender actually managed to be in position to contest, Jusuf Nurkic would roll into the paint like a beach ball barreling over a chess board. Without Karl-Anthony Towns, who is nursing a bum wrist, the closest thing the Wolves have to a center is a 31-year-old Ed Davis (sorry, Ed), and 6’8” Jarred Vanderbilt, who you probably haven’t heard of before tonight. Translation: the big men got to eat.
Nurkic repeatedly found his way to the rim without so much as a wave from Minnesota defenders, who probably felt it wasn’t worth the sweat just to become road kill to the 290-pound Bosnian tractor. Nurkic finished with his most productive stat line of the season thus far (17 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists) even while resting most of the second half. Kanter also continued his steady play, adding 10 points on a perfect 5-5 shooting, 7 boards, 2 steals and 2 blocks.
Garbage time lasted for most of the second half, where the Blazers pushed their lead as high as 33 points before the Wolves made the final score a look a little bit more competitive. It wasn’t; though, first overall pick Anthony Edwards flashed a lot of offensive promise, scoring 26 points off the bench, but struggled to make much of an impact elsewhere on the floor.
All in all, Portland was able to cruise to their easiest victory of the season.
The Blazers get a day off before heading south to take on the Sacramento Kings Saturday evening at 7 p.m. Pacific.