MINNEAPOLIS – Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum walked to the Blazers locker room ice cold at halftime, shooting 3-13 from the floor before the break, down 13 points.
The Wolves were hedging the pick-and-roll well, trapping Lillard early in the shot clock, showing crisp rotations, and forcing Portland's high-scoring backcourt – Lillard averages 24.5 points per game and McCollum scores 19.6 – into plenty of tough, contested shots.
Everything was going smoothly. Then the third quarter started and the Wolves blew the 17-point lead. Heading into the fourth, Portland had all of the momentum down only 82-80 after digging themselves out of a substantial hole. The Blazers backcourt was heating up (18 points in the third).
In the fourth, Lillard nailed a 25-foot three pointer to put Portland up 98-94 with 4:22 remaining and McCollum came back with a 10-footer on the next possesion. Lillard continued the run with a driving layup to give Portland the 102-94 lead with 2:48.
Towns sunk his fourth three of the season (on 12 attempts) with 1:13 left to make the game interesting again, cutting the score to 105-103, but the Wolves didn't score another point. Lillard put the game on ice with his driving layup with 18 seconds left, finishing with 19 points and seven assists. We saw more of the cold blooded Dame.
"It's tough to come back from 17 on the road, and now we've done it twice here," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. "I don't know what to say about that."
Well, we've been here before. Tonight's loss felt similar to the game earlier in the season when Portland was down 17 points early and still beat the Wolves at Target Center. It was another home game that slipped away in the end, 109-103; moving Minnesota to 2-8 at home and 6-3 on the road.
Ricky Rubio finished with nine points, 15 assists, and six rebounds in his fifth game with 10 or more assists this season. He talked about the team needing to learn not to relax when going up by double-digits.
"We played good in the first half, and the second half we just lost a little energy," Rubio said. "We've got to learn off of our mistakes, but it's something that hurts. It's painful. We've got to look for some solutions."
"I hope we're learning. Everybody's going to make mistakes," Rubio said.
"You play this game, you do a lot of things good and a lot of things bad. The team that makes the less mistakes is the team who wins. We're going to learn how to, in that kind of situation when we're up, control the tempo of the game. Don't relax and think that we already did something good."
Andrew Wiggins was locked-in early – 12 of his 17 points came in the first quarter and he was 5-6 from the floor with 15 points at halftime – but struggled mightily in the second half, 1-9 in 21 minutes, as the Blazers decided it would be wise to make him beat them with jumpers. Only three of Wiggins' nine second half shot attempts came in the paint and he missed all four of his three's after halftime.
"My rhythm wasn’t like it was in the first half," Wiggins said. "Usually we play good in the second half, and today was a good first half. I didn't play good in the second half. I feel like I didn't really help my team like I should have."
Zach LaVine had a rough night as well, shooting 4-14. The Bounce Bros. simply couldn't get any shots to go down in the second half (4-20 combined).
"Some nights you've got to score, in certain parts of the game, you've got to score," Sam Mitchell said. "We didn't score enough. You're not going to keep those guys down, they just keep coming. It's exhausting because you're asking your big guys to do so much. You're asking your bigs to be up, they've got to trap, they're stringing them out on the pass, they've got to get back."
"This is the NBA, guys can put the ball in the basket," Mitchell continued. "Our defense has been saving us for the most part, but some nights you've got to put the ball in the basket."
Karl-Anthony Towns was sensational throughout the night on his way to 27 points, 12 rebounds, and two blocks. In typical Towns fashion, he was quick to take blame for the loss even when his beast mode performance would have been the biggest discussion point if the Wolves had walked away victorious.
"We did a great job tonight, we just couldn't hit the shots we needed when we needed them most, especially me," Towns said.
Towns on his three-pointer late in the fourth quarter that bounced out...
"It felt excellent. It felt really good. It felt way better than the last one. I just let them go off. My team trusts me to take that shot and make us and take us home and I just didn't deliver tonight."
Praise from Dame
Lillard had nice things to say about the Wolves after the game.
On the game...
"We play so many games, you know what I mean? When you have a lot of responsibility and so many games, you just have to accept that some nights it's not going to be sweet. It's going to be tougher some nights than others. I'll just give a lot of credit to Minnesota. They showed me a lot of attention on pick and rolls. Nothing came easy. It came to a point where I really had to really just trust the pass. CJ (McCollum) stepped up and other guys made plays and made shots to keep us in the game. Down the stretch, because of that, it loosened up a little bit and I was able to get some looks and find a way to get it done."
On the Wolves...
"I think they've done a great job, as far as rebuilding. The players that they've brought in. Rubio's a really good playmaker, a really good point guard. Then you've got LaVine, who's going to be able to score -- a good athlete with more experience. Wiggins, a number one pick. Towns, a number one pick. Gorgui Dieng. They've got Kevin Garnett here showing them the way. They've got a really good team. At this point I think, just like we're trying to grow and get better, that's the same stage that they're in."
Notes (via Timberwolves PR)
- Zach LaVine finished with 12 points, his 14th straight double-digit scoring effort.
- Gorgui Dieng finished with 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting and five rebounds. Over his last six games, he's averaging 11.7 points on 64.9% shooting (24-of-37) and 7.7 rebounds.
- Kevin Garnett scored 5 points tonight to give him 26,000 points for his career - the 15th player in NBA history to reach this mark.
- Portland's two largest comeback victories this season have both occurred in Minnesota (17 points each, tonight and Nov. 2).
- Al-Farouq Aminu finished with 16 points, one shy of his season high (17 points [2x], MR: Nov. 16 vs. San Antonio).
- Meyers Leonard connected on two three-pointers tonight, his third straight game with multiple treys. This is the first time he has strung together three straight games with multiple threes in his career.
- Damian Lillard finished with 19 points and seven assists tonight, surpassing the 500-point mark on the season. Lillard accomplished the feat in 21 games, tied for the 7th-fastest in team history.