The Minnesota Timberwolves and the Portland Trail Blazers were not interested in playing any defense in their matchup on Saturday night. The teams combined to score 256 points at Target Center.
The game stayed close for most of the night, neither team leading by more than 8 at any point through 3 quarters. The lead flipped back and forth as the night went on and neither team was able to take the reigns and run with it early. But, when it mattered the most the Wolves were the ones to pull the game out for their 12th win in their last 16 games.
This game was not a pretty one. The defense stunk for Minnesota against a depleted Blazers squad that had just 8 available players. Those 8 players played hard, made shots, and wouldn’t give up. The cream of the crop for that octet was of course Anfernee Simons. Simons, the crown jewel of this Blazers rebuild scored 38 points on 9 made threes tonight.
For the Wolves, it started out as the Malik Beasley show. He had 16 points on 4-for-9 shooting from deep in just 21 minutes before he was tossed from the contest for an interaction with Portland’s Drew Eubanks.
Before he was forced to leave the floor, Beasley set the franchise record for threes made in a season with 193, breaking Kevin Love’s previous record of 190.
March 6, 2022
Beasley wasn’t the only one breaking records tonight. D’Angelo Russell broke his career high for assists in a game with 15. His previous high was 14, which he has done multiple times throughout his NBA career.
The assists didn’t necessarily stand out tonight, but they were important in helping the Wolves secure the win in this one. Russell knew his shot wasn’t feeling the best, so he audibled and became a fantastic game manager. His 15 assists came at the cost of only two turnovers, which is less than his season average of 2.6.
The biggest star of the night was Karl-Anthony Towns. The “MVP” chants rained down from the Target Center stands multiple times throughout the second half and post game tonight. Towns was magnificent in his attacking of the basket, his rebounding, and his passing. He made all 13 of his two-point attempts on the night, including some incredibly tough buckets like his left handed full-speed floater at the buzzer.
how many bigs in the league can do this? pic.twitter.com/1UEO9he41s— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) March 6, 2022
Towns missed all four of his three-point attempts on the night, which is about the only knock you could put on his offensive performance. He also took advantage of his size against the small Portland squad and pulled down 15 rebounds to go along with 5 assists, 3 blocks, and 0 turnovers.
While Towns performance kept the Wolves close throughout the entirety of the game, perhaps the biggest reason the Wolves were able to pull away was Jaylen Nowell. Nowell came off the bench and made an important impact. He ended the night with 22 points, shooting 4-for-7 from deep and 4-for-6 from inside the arc.
Jaden McDaniels and Jarred Vanderbilt had sneaky good games tonight as well, finishing with 16 and 14 points repectively.
On a more sour note, the Timberwolves had Taurean Prince leave the game after 13 minutes of action and not return as he began dealing with back spasms. Naz Reid also seemed to tweak his leg during the game. Chris Finch did not have any updates on either player in his postgame media availability.
The Wolves pushed their record to 36-29, but still remain 2 games back from Denver for the 6th seed with only 17 games remaining. Luckily for the Wolves, they have a pretty light schedule coming up, which could be a time to gain some ground. The trouble is, Denver just keeps on winning, so Minnesota can’t afford any slip ups. They avoided a big one tonight.
Next up for the Wolves is another bout against the Trail Blazers on Monday night and a chance to win their 5th straight game. It is time for the Wolves to make their push and see if one (or both) of Denver or Dallas crumble, opening the door for a top 6 seed.