A million monkeys typing for a million years would eventually bang out a recap descriptive enough to capture the horror of the Portland Trail Blazers’ 124-81 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night. But if they did that, your eyes would melt before you got three paragraphs in and we’d be forced to eliminate the whole monkey colony on general principle. So let’s just skip it and say the Blazers lost bad. Really bad.
If you missed the game, well, run. Run away hard. But if you want to see how it went, you can find our quarter-by-quarter recap here. After that, here are a few other observations from the game.
If the question of the day is, “How many Blazers do you have to take out of the lineup before their defense just disintegrates?” the answer tonight was, “Exactly this many.” Portland still made isolated, individual plays on defense. Those were more like springs flying out of a broken machine than the machine itself working. When they weren’t forcing rare turnovers, they missed assignments, left wide swaths of the floor open, and utterly failed to patrol the lane with anything resembling effectiveness.
Rebounding has been a strength for the Blazers all year. Even after the massive personnel switch, board work has been active. Minnesota used size and effort to destroy Portland on the glass tonight. The ‘Wolves got 19 offensive rebounds. 19! That’s, like, a week’s worth! During some stretches, Minnesota seemed to get as many second-chance points as the Blazers got points.
Much is made of a team’s style, or sets. Head Coach Chauncey Billups has instituted a new system this year, and his young players are running it diligently. But no amount of X’s and O’s can create the lubricant that keeps the gears running: timing. Time after time tonight, we’d see a Portland big set a screen, only to have the dribbler a step early (or late) using it. Or the screen setter rolled a half-second too soon. Or a perimeter defender found themselves two steps behind trying to help cover at the rim.
The Blazers weren’t running a carefully-rehearsed comedy routine, like the Stooges or Abbott and Costello. The elements were there, but the execution was pure improv. And not practiced improv, either.
Once upon a time, it seemed like an impossibility. No matter who went down for the Blazers over the last decade, somebody else stepped up to pour points through the net. Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic, Norman Powell, Anfernee Simons... one followed the other, taking the reins of the offense. With all of those players out, or departed, Portland has finally run out of options. They fielded zero natural scorers tonight. Normally you’re asking where they should go with the ball. Five minutes into this game, you realized it really didn’t matter. Nothing was going to work.
In jazz music, they say it’s not about the notes you play, but about the notes you don’t play. For Portland, this game wasn’t just about the shots they got, but the ones they didn’t get. 18 turnovers for the Blazers and 9 blocks for Minnesota told that story. Many of Portland’s opportunities were just bad looks, but it seemed like half of the good ones got erased before they happened.
Then again, shooting 27.7% from the field, the Blazers could have eliminated every single turnover and opponent block and still only generated 15 more points. They lost by 43.
Brandon Williams got the start and scored 27 points. He hit 11-16 free throws in the process.
Drew Eubanks played really well on Saturday night against the ‘Wolves, but he got devoured tonight. In 29 minutes he produced 2 points on 1-6 shooting with 7 rebounds and not much defense.
Portland shot 25.0% from the three-point arc.
Portland scored only 28 points in the paint.
Over a third of their points (28 out of 81) came from the foul line.
Portland’s big-man woes won’t ease as they travel to Utah to face the Jazz on Wednesday night with a 7:00, Pacific start time.