The well-rested Portland Trail Blazers desperately sought a win Sunday night at home, after losing seven of their last eight games. But despite the return of Damian Lillard, the Blazers fell apart down the stretch, losing to Minnesota, 116-111. The Timberwolves broke a five-game losing streak of their own.
This was a game between the 9th and 10th teams in the West, and unfortunately looked every bit of it.
All About Chemistry. The Blazers made a long-debated change to their starting lineup, as Larry Nance Jr replaced Robert Covington. The hope was that it would bring a spark; however the chemistry just wasn’t there, as the team struggled at the start of both the first and third quarters.
Feeling Strangely Fine. Lillard, returning from a ten-day absence, grimaced as was welcomed back with multiple collisions. But overall, he looked similar to his recent self. Unfortunately, that’s a very mixed bag. He shot 3-14 from three (but sank a late clutch three, naturally), but went 11-15 from the free throw line. He scored 24.
The Great Divide. Despite the lineup change, nearly every starter finished the game with a negative +/-, while the bench was in the positives. Portland’s three-point shooting was a key: Of the Blazers’ 48 three-point attempts, the starters and bench each shot half. The starters made 6; the bench sank 12.
Closing Time. Leading by 4 with five minutes remaining, the Blazers failed to close the door, committing multiple turnovers and failing to get stops on defense. When Portland finally manufactured a chance to tie, as Lillard cut the lead to three with 29 seconds left, Anfernee Simons committed an intentional foul in the back court, giving Minnesota free throws and the win.
A day off at home, then the Blazers welcome the defending Western Conference Champion Phoenix Suns on Tuesday.