March 2, 2018, 1:41 am
It was a tale of two halves for the Wolves.
In the first half, the defense was locking down the Portland Trail Blazers, holding them to under 40 percent shooting and 44 points. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum were ice cold from the field and no one could hit a 3-pointer for the Blazers.
The offense for the Wolves was a little bit slower than normal, but Towns was carrying the team with 21 points in the first half.
The Wolves only led 49-44, but really felt like it could have been more and it was only a matter of time until they broke things open.
Unfortunately that was not the case in the second half. Instead the Blazers took control of the game at the line and Lillard came alive form all over the floor. After opening the game 0-of-9, Lillard hit 9-of-12 to close out the game and was in vintage form.
He finished with 35 points, seven rebounds, four assists, one steal and four 3-pointers, He also shot 13-of-16 from the free throw line. He made two of his 3-pointers in the final three minutes of the fourth quarter, the latter to extend the lead to 10 points and essentially seal the game. The Blazers went on to win 108-99.
Going into this game the Wolves needed to slow down at least one of McCollum or Lillard, and for at least half the game, they were able to achieve that goal. By the end both had achieved considerable damage. C.J. finished with 19 points, four rebounds, two assists, one steal, one block and three 3-pointers.
Andrew Wiggins drew McCollum most of the time, and C.J. only shot 7-of-18 from the field, but in the end proved to be just a little too much. Wiggins bottled up McCollum a couple of times, flashing his elite potential on defense, and eventually the Blazers went away from that matchup, attacking Bjelica instead in the pick-and-roll.
Offensively Wiggins didn’t quite attack the rim as much as he could have with the slower, shorter player on him. Wigs scored 21 points but on 7-of-20 shooting.
Karl-Anthony Towns was the offensive monster for the Wolves in this one, finishing with 34 points on 11-of-19 shooting and 11-of-12 at the line. He added 17 rebounds, two assists, two steals, three blocks and one 3-pointer as well. He was scoring all over the floor with perfect touch.
The defense from Wigs and Towns was impressive for stretches, though not enough to close out the game. That said, it’s encouraging to see the intensity and potential, even with Jimmy Butler out with an injury. When these guys start to bring this defensive energy every night, the entire team will take off.
They managed to hold the Blazers under 40 percent shooting, 39.1 percent, and only gave up nine 3-pointer. It’s tough to lose when giving up a percentage that low, and the Wolves naturally found a way to. Even so it’s an encouraging development.
Tonight it was the offensive rebounding, the turnovers and the foul-shot discrepancy that sunk the Wolves. The allowed 12 offensive rebounds, 15 turnovers and 35 free throw attempts (to their own 21).
This was a tough loss to swallow as the Wolves had the game in hand and let it slip away. Now they’ll have to bounce back on the road in Utah tomorrow night to hold on to the third seed in the West.
Taj Gibson left the game with a hip injury and did not return. There’s no word on the severity, but his status for tomorrow is currently in question.