Trail Blazers Tame Timberwolves
The Portland Trail Blazers (15-11) defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves (13-13) at the Moda Center Saturday night with a score of 113 – 105. Damian Lillard received “MVP” chants while shooting free throws to end the game due to another clutch effort by the Blazers star who hit a huge three pointer to break the tie with just under a minute left in the game, then on the next possession found a wide open CJ McCollum for an uncontested three pointer to take a lead of six. This was a huge win for the Blazers with recent struggles and it’s always important to win these divisional games.
CJ McCollum returned from injury and logged 33 minutes and scored an efficient 19 points on 47% shooting. Damian Lillard scored 28 points on 50% shooting, but the best stat line of the night belonged to Jusuf Nurkic. The Bosnian Beast scored 22 points, snagged 14 rebounds, and dished out 4 assists to go along with 3 steals and 4 blocks. The Blazers bench added 22 points tonight and was led by Evan Turner with 6 points and 5 rebounds. One interesting note about the bench was that Seth Curry didn’t get in to the game after starting in the previous contest to replace the injured CJ McCollum. It seemed that Curry’s minutes were taken by Jake Layman who shot 2-10 from the field.
The Timberwolves were led by Andrew Wiggins, Derrick Rose, and Karl Anthony-Towns but were without newly acquired sharp-shooter Robert Covington. Wiggins scored 20 points on 44% shooting and seemed to score effortlessly when he was aggressive. Derrick Rose continued to show off the improved jump shot and scored 18 points and added 9 assists. Karl Anthony-Towns had a double-double scoring 19 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in the loss. Towns was primarily guarded by Aminu who kept him in check on the perimeter while relying on help defense from the rest on the Blazers once Towns got down low. The Timberwolves drop to 10th in the Western Conference and visit the NBA champion Golden State Warriors on Monday night.
· With 7:18 left in the first quarter Derrick Rose drives the lane against four Blazer players and has his shot blocked off the backboard by a trailing Jusuf Nurkic, Harkless picks up the rebound and passes off to Lillard who patiently waits for Aminu to fill the lane and Chief blows by Wiggins to throw down a one-handed dunk.
· With 4:50 remaining in the second quarter Moe Harkless is isolated against a defending Josh Okogie. Harkless gives a quick ball fake leaving Okogie to slip, then Moe drives the lane and throws down an effortless jam. Taj Gibson made a business decision by stepping out of the way.
· With 3:10 remaining in the 4th quarter Karl Anthony-Towns drives in only to be met at the rim by Jusuf Nurkic who blocks the shot. On the other end of the court CJ McCollum finishes a tough reverse lay-up prompting a Minnesota time out.
Who Got Next
The Blazers get two days off before traveling to Houston to take on the struggling Rockets (11-14) on Tuesday night at 5:00 PM. The Rockets last played Saturday night against the Dallas Mavericks and lost 104 – 107. In that game James Harden and Chris Paul combined for 58 points and 8 turnovers. The last time the Blazers played the Rockets Jusuf Nurkic and Damian Lillard each scored 22 points and the Blazers got the win 104 – 85. The Rockets have struggled mightily this season and have almost matched their loss total from last season (17) already and are currently in 14th place in the Western Conference. Look for an exciting battle of offensive guards and pesky big men. Tune in to NBC Sports Northwest with Lamar Hurd and Kevin Calabro, or listen in on Rip City Radio 620 AM.