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Wolves 112, Trail Blazers 96: Delirious

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Defense is key in third straight win

In front of a full house thanks to the introduction of their Prince themed jerseys, the Wolves were The Beautiful Ones tonight in a 112-96 win over the Portland Trail Blazers. The Wolves led throughout on their way to their third straight win since Jimmy Butler was shipped off, and you could tell once again that they were enjoying their basketball.

It was their defense that led the way tonight, as they held the Blazers to 42.5 percent shooting and forced 19 turnovers that they converted into 22 points. They did a terrific job defending the paint. Their bigs, Karl-Anthony Towns, Taj Gibson, and Dario Saric all showed excellent effort around the rim, but also with help from the wings digging down and making things tough on the Blazers, but still closing out to contest three pointers, something Portland has hurt them with before.

Not tonight, with Damian Lillard struggling to a 5-18 shooting night (1-7 from three.) The Blazers couldn’t find anything to work consistently, which is a credit to the Wolves defense. They clogged driving and passing lanes all night, and forced the Blazers into mistakes.

The new guys are a big part of this. Having a couple of guys who know where they are supposed to be, and who compete for the ball consistently, makes a huge difference. Robert Covington is a terrific defender, just hounding people all over and understanding what opponents are trying to do. Saric doesn’t have the same gifts, but he competes incredibly hard, challenges everyone who comes into his area, and makes smart plays. It seems to be a bit contagious, as both Towns and Andrew Wiggins have shown more signs of defensive life recently. A significant improvement on that end with the trade of Jimmy Butler would be a pleasant surprise.

Offensively, the Wolves for the second night in a row got good ball movement, and recorded 27 assists after a season high 29 against the Pelicans on Wednesday. In the first half, Robert Covington was the beneficiary, as he found himself open beyond the arc and wound up 5-7 from the field (4-6 from three.) Foul trouble limited him in the second half, but Andrew Wiggins got hot after a poor shooting first half, and wound up with 23 to lead the team. All told the Wolves had six players in double figures in a well-balanced attack. The seem so much more comfortable shooting threes, (12-28 tonight,) which makes a big difference in their offense.

The Wolves moved to 7-1 at home with tonight’s win, and look like an entirely different team than the one who stumbled home after their 0-5 road trip. Let’s enjoy it.

NOTES

  • So good to see Kevin Garnett at Target Center for the jersey unveiling. He was wearing a “99” jersey. We need more Garnett in our Wolves lives.
  • Josh Okogie was the odd man out of the rotation with the return of Derrick Rose. This is disappointing because he has earned some playing time, and also needs to develop.
  • Tyus Jones is also clearly going to lose even more minutes. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him elsewhere by the trade deadline, unfortunately.
  • Next up is an afternoon tilt at home against the Grizzlies on Sunday.