It was pride that helped the Blazers get physical, beating Minnesota on the boards 45-28, while they only surrendered four offensive rebounds to a team that flexes the vaunted Rudy Gobert in the middle. It was pride at the forefront of the smaller Anfernee Simons battling Gobert on switches in the post in the second half, making the 7-footer earn every touch. And above all else, it was pride that ignited a 27-8 run between the 4:48 mark of the third quarter and the 8:39 mark of the fourth.
That run flipped an 86-76 deficit into a 103-94 lead for the Blazers.
“I think it was our guys in the huddle challenging each other,” Chauncey Billups said about the turnaround. “[They were] pretty upset with each other that [the Timberwolves] were just scoring so easily. … [Minnesota] can do you like that, they can make you look that way, but at the same time, our guys had a lot of pride. It was really them. It wasn’t me, it was them talking to each other.’’
Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard preached the same message in his postgame interview. Lillard said he was one of those players in the huddle talking about how the Blazers needed to reach deeper and step up to the occasion.
“Either we’re gonna break their heart or they’re gonna break ours,” Lillard said. “The first team that decides to take some pride and to sit down and just tighten up and be on a string, help each other out, rebound, that’s the team that’s gonna win. I feel like we received that message.”
Both Lillard and Billups said the game’s decisive moment was that rally started in the third quarter. Portland had given up a whopping 39 points in the second quarter. Before the run started in the third quarter, the Blazers had already surrendered 20 points. They were in danger of letting the game fall apart, but that’s when their pride stepped in.
“Those are the moments where we gotta decide what type of team we’re gonna be,” Lillard said.
The Blazers only gave up six more points over the final five minutes of the third (for a quarter total of 26) and allowed only 26 points in the fourth to get their hands back on the wheel, before big shotmaking took them home.
For Billups, the second half adjustments were a welcomed sight in the face of that disappointing second quarter — and in the aftermath of a depressing loss against the Denver Nuggets on Thursday.
“I’m happy in those moments [when we face adversity] because that’s when you really learn most about your team is when it’s tough and when you lose some games,” Billups said. “That was a heartbreaker the other day that we lost. So you always look back and say, ‘alright, how do we respond from that?’”
Portland’s response was an imperfect, but resilient win against Minnesota.
The Blazers face off against the same Timberwolves tomorrow. We’ll see if they can showcase some of that pride again and complete the difficult task of beating an NBA team twice in a row.