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Wolves 110, Blazers 109: Building Habits and Putting in Work

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The Blazers six-game winning streak has been snapped.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Minnesota Timberwolves Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS — Last time the Blazers were at Target Center, Damian Lillard said there was no way the game could be played given the dangerous court conditions.

"I can do the moonwalk," he remarked.

The game was eventually canceled due to condensation from the ice underneath the hardwood from a Friday night performance of Disney on Ice, combined with an unusual humid day in Minnesota, and rescheduled for tonight.

Thibodeau was asked about Portland’s high-powered backcourt before the game. “Yeah, this backcourt is as dynamic as it gets in the league,” he commented. “It’s not just the shooting, it’s the pick and roll, getting into the paint, finishing, it’s the in-between game. They have all the shots. They’ll make you pay for mistakes and they play off each other very well.”

It’s no secret: The Wolves needed to hold Lillard and C.J. McCollum in check if they wanted to win, and that’s exactly what they ended up doing Monday night.

Lillard (25 points on 7-21 shooting) and McCollum (17 points on 5-14) both struggled to hit shots—15 of their 42 points came at the free throw line—and Lillard’s potential game-winning 17-foot jumper at the buzzer rimmed out. The Wolves won another one point game, 110-109, to snap the Blazers six-game winning streak.

“I just tried to contest the shot,” said Ricky Rubio. “We know he’s one of the best doing that and lucky for us he didn’t make the shot.”

“We had to scratch this one out,” Towns said in the locker room after leading the Wolves with a game-high 34 points and 12 rebounds. “They made shots, we made shots, and we’re just fortunate enough we made one more shot than them.”

Is Towns looking at the Wolves as spoilers down the stretch?

“I don’t think about spoilers,” Towns said. “I think we’re building something. Regardless of what our record is, we’ve got to go out there and play basketball the right way. We don’t have time for that. Every game, every second, every practice, every workout is valuable to building a championship team, and that’s how we need to look at it.”

That sounded exactly like Thibs to me.

Andrew Wiggins had 29 points (11-24 from the field and 4-4 from the line) in his 52nd 20+ point game of the season. He was 3-5 from three-point land and has now hit 15 of his last 27 dating back to the game in Los Angeles on Mar. 24. His three-point percentage has been a major area for improvement in year three, up six percent from last season (36% compared to 30%).

"We just stuck with it, dug in deep, got some stops and pushed it on the offensive end and got some easy buckets and that kind of motivated us,” said Wiggins.

Rubio finished with 16 assists to give him his seventh game this season with 15+ dimes. He added 11 points and seven rebounds to give him his fourth straight double-double. He also extended his streak of consecutive made technical free throws to 49, the longest active streak in the NBA.

“We just played aggressive, played more as a team at the end, and we learned how to get to our spots at the end of the game,” said Rubio.

Thibodeau Presser

Did you like the fight that these guys showed?

“I expect them to be professional. We have a lot that we’re playing for in terms of us building habits, improving. This isn’t about taking days off and relaxing and having a good time. We didn’t make the playoffs, so if we want to end that we’ve got to put the work into it.”

NOTES

  • Towns on his thunderous slam with 35 seconds left off the feed from Gorgui Dieng: “I mean, it was a great pass. I knew G looked at me. I thought G was going to shoot a floater but he gave me a look like he knew he was passing it and I just wanted to make sure that I did everything possible to help us get a win. I knew that a layup wouldn’t do it at that moment. You got to make sure you put it in. I’m just glad I was able to have enough spark and enough legs to go up there and dunk it.”
  • Brandon Rush finished with 12 points in one of his better all-around games this season. The last time Rush scored double-digits in back-to-back games this season was Jan. 11-13.
  • Wolves held Portland to only two fast break points, holding a 13-to- 2 advantage in that category. This was one of the best showings of transition defense all season. Portland is 22nd in the NBA in fast break points this season, averaging 11.6 ppg.
  • After Portland outscored Minnesota 82-76 combined in the two previous meeting, the Wolves held a 56-36 advantage in points in the paint tonight.
  • McCollum entered the night averaging 37.5 points on 71.1 percent shooting against the Wolves (wow that’s incredible) in his two meetings with them this season. I was impressed with the way they defended him tonight, holding C.J. to only 17 points.
  • Mo Harkless had 17 points on 7-10 shooting.
  • Al-Farouq Aminu was outstanding. His defensive versatility always sticks out but tonight he was hitting threes and creating open shots for his teammates. He finished with 20 points (4-7 from deep), seven rebounds, five assists, and three blocks in 35 minutes off the bench.
  • Stotts: “I thought both teams played well, it was obviously a very competitive game. We had our chances to win the game, had a lot of good looks at offense and didn’t come up with a few rebounds. The third quarter really hurt us, they [Timberwolves] either scored in the paint or scored from the free-throw line, and 34 points in the third quarter probably was the difference in the game but we had our chances in the fourth [quarter].”
  • Portland really missed Jusuf Nurkic tonight and had to play small without him. “Well obviously he’s a big part of what we’ve done the last six weeks, we miss him,” said Stotts. He’s not here, he’s not going to be here for a while, so we have to find ways to win without him.”