The Portland Trail Blazers dominated the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night, winning 133-112 on their final game of a nice December homestand. Damian Lillard equaled a career-high 11 three-pointers made for 38 points. Portland obliterated the ‘Wolves on the boards, scored a ton of fast-break points. It was a nightmare for Minnesota and an early Christmas dream for Portland.
Jerami Grant backed up Lillard with 24 points on 7-12 shooting.
With the victory, Portland’s record is 15-12.
Jusuf Nurkic was feeling frisky to start this game, shooting (and missing) a three and then driving past Rudy Gobert for a layup. It seemed like the Blazers wanted to draw Minnesota’s big man outside, then run action in his absence. That plan melted in the face of Anfernee Simons’ torrid shooting. Simons dazzled with a fade-away, then a spectacular three, then got his pocket picked on what was setting up to be a highlight-reel layup. Ant and Nurk were pressure points in almost every Portland play early.
Even with the hot play on offense, the Blazers let the ‘Wolves make good on the other end with layups and threes. That made the scoreboard margin thin even when the style margin went Portland’s way.
The game got a little ugly mid-period, with Portland scoring on a Damian Lillard three and Jerami Grant getting fouled on one. Minnesota missing three of four layup attempts didn’t make it any prettier on their end. But Lillard hit another three, qualifying him as “on a roll,” and that made most everything better. Austin Rivers committing a silly foul before a ball was inbounded continued the follies for the Timberwolves. It was like watching someone in ballroom dancing class with their shoes untied. Lillard took full advantage with ANOTHER three and now “on a roll” turned into “on fire”. Gobert tried to keep his team alive with second-chance points, but the Blazers got just as many.
Portland bungles late allowed the ‘Wolves to sneak in a few more points, but the Blazers still ended the quarter up 33-27.
Portland’s second period started with a bunch of threes, only one of which (from Jerami Grant) fell. Minnesota was missing just as badly, though, so they never made much headway on the scoreboard despite Portland’s 1-5 clip beyond the arc in the first 3:30 of the frame.
As the early quarter progressed, Portland’s threes stubbornly refused to fall. Minnesota started getting hot from the mid-range, allowing them to close the lead to 6, 47-14, at the 5:52 mark. But the Blazers always seemed to have something in their pocket: a Nurkic and-one layup, a Lillard three, ANOTHER Lillard three. Bonus buckets were enough to make up for all the hotness the T-Wolves could muster.
When Drew Eubanks got hot at the end of the period—converting two close-in shots plus a dunk and blocking a Gobert flip shot—you kind of got the sense it wasn’t Minnesota’s night. Eubanks’ play was enough to keep Nurkic on the bench for the rest of the half. A by-now-familiar Lillard three with 33 seconds remaining capped the period. Portland led 70-59 at the half. Lillard had 27 points on 8-10 shooting from the arc.
Minnesota’s big comeback attempted started with them shooting 2-for-1,000,000,000 at the start of the third. Portland wasn’t hitting big either, but a few free throws were enough to put the lead at 15 with four minutes gone.
And then Dame caught fire. Again.
The Timberwolves will definitely make Santa’s naughty list for how they defended Dame at the arc tonight. Too much space plus too much talent makes a looooong night for Minnesota.
Anthony Edwards tried to make up for it by hitting a couple straight threes himself, but he was no Lillard.
When Josh Hart, Justise Winslow, and Jerami Grant started hitting threes as well—which they did, all in a row, after a Portland timeout—this thing was over. Hart put the sprinkles on the cake by putting back a Grant miss in the final second of the period, leaving Portland ahead 106-84 after three.
The fourth quarter began with a Grant dunk and a Winslow layup in succession. The Timberwolves called a timeout, but they were about five quarters too late to turn the tide. The Blazers rested Dame, who had ice on his calf, before he could break his career high for three-pointers made, but tying it was still fun. So was watching Shaedon Sharpe playing free and easy in the fourth, unconcerned about the long-decided outcome, dunking and shooting with abandon. Watching Drew Eubanks cut himself on the rim and bleed all over the floor? Not so much. But nothing could spoil the celebratory evening in the Moda Center.
P.S. Jabari Walker banked in a three with 2:52 remaining. Then Trendon Watford hit a three in the final minute. Yeah. It was just that kind of night.
Stay tuned for extended analysis of the game coming up next!
The Blazers now head out on a six-game road trip that will take them up to Christmas. It starts in San Antonio on Wednesday night with a 5:00, Pacific start.