Following the Monday night rematch between the two teams, the Portland Trail Blazers have still played three good quarters against the Minnesota Timberwolves, total, in the last 48 hours. The ‘Wolves dismissed any idea of revenge for Portland, dominating a Blazers team that welcomed back forward Josh Hart, but sat high-scoring guard Anfernee Simons. Minnesota went up 20 early, pushed it to 30, and never looked back, pasting a 124-81 on the Blazers.
Blazers guard Brandon Williams scored 27 in the loss. Keon Johnson added 14 off the bench. Towns led the ‘Wolves with 27, plus 13 rebounds.
The Timberwolves learned their lesson from Saturday night, when they scored 60 against the Blazers in the paint. They started the game driving to the cup for layups and/or fouls. They didn’t stay there, though. They spent most of the first quarter bricking shots from 10-24 feet.
The Blazers tried to duplicate Minnesota’s inside success, taking the ball hard to the lane. Unfortunately they had no earthly idea what to do with it when they got there. “Make shots” was, like, fourth on the list at best. Turn over the ball, stand still, and miss the shot ranked above. The Blazers had no trouble duplicating the ‘Wolves’ inept outside shooting, though. They missed every shot they took outside of 8 feet.
Remember how, on Saturday, these teams started out super hot, doing no wrong on offense? The bill came due in this first period.
Minnesota shook out of the blahs first, converting Portland misses into quick offense. When they couldn’t score on the run, they drew fouls and converted free throws. The Blazers were active, trying to force turnovers and run, but they never got enough (or converted them efficiently). Minnesota feasting on the offensive glass added insult to injury. The ‘Wolves led 31-15 after one.
Minnesota pounded Portland in the opening minutes of the second period. They waited on Blazers scorers like hawks waiting for mice. They had complete freedom to leave a single defender on any Portland ball-handler, using another defender to watch the most likely passing angle. Turnovers and barfed-up shot attempts ensued. And don’t forget the blocked shots. LOTS of blocked shots. With Portland’s scoring stalled, every Minnesota conversion hurt like a thousand daggers. They converted plenty, with relative freedom inside and distressingly open outside looks (the latter of which they missed anyway). The lead shot to 20 in an instant.
Portland kept at it. They tried to solve their offensive problems by keeping the ball in the hands of dribblers, who cut into the lane, spun or juked, then got up quick attempts. That’s not their game, especially with the depleted lineup. They did manage to cut the lead down to 15 on several occasions, but it wasn’t sustainable.
On the other end, we watched special treats like CJ Elleby trying to guard Karl-Anthony Towns. Hoo boy. The Timberwolves streaked farther ahead, leading 61-34 at the half.
Blazers fans kept waiting for Portland’s performance to get better in the third period. Frankly, they’re still waiting. Airballs...defenders falling on their butts...players losing the ball out of bounds with no provocation... It was like someone tried to make a Rembrandt portrait out of Play-Doh: a lumpy, ugly imitation that only a mother could love. It got so bad that the Minnesota crowd successfully started a wave. That was just before their team went up 30. Again.
Portland hitting four threes in the period was the only thing that saved them from total disaster. They hit only FIVE shots total in the period. Minnesota led 90-60 after the third.
That’s when they brought Jake Layman and Nate Knight in. It’s the universal, “Game Over” signal for the ‘Wolves.
The Blazers responded by playing even worse defense, though we’re not even sure that was scientifically possible. It was pretty much indescribable, though, so we’ll mercifully bring the recap to an end by saying the Blazers...well...didn’t come back.
Stay tuned for analysis from the game, coming soon.
The Blazers travel to Utah to take on the Jazz on Wednesday night at 7:00 PM, Pacific.