Blazers Bounce Back With Blowout Win Versus Timberwolves

by Casey Holdahl
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PORTLAND --  Often times in the NBA, one needs to consider a multitude of complexities in order to understand why one team bests another on a particular night. But on other occasions, such as Sunday night’s game between the Trail Blazers and Timberwolves, the difference between winning and losing is readily apparent.

Armed with with their three best players, the Portland Trail Blazers easily dispatched the Minnesota Timberwolves, playing without Jimmy Butler (rest) Derrick Rose (left ankle) and Jeff Teague (knee), 111-81 in front of a sellout crowed of 19,522 Sunday night at the Moda Center.

“It was a good bounce back game for us,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “Obviously they’re a little undermanned, but I liked the way we played. I thought we had good rhythm offensively for most of the game, defensively as well. But like I said. without Butler and Moda Center and Teague, they’re a little undermanned.”

Portland is now 7-3 overall and 4-2 at home this season.

After a demoralizing home loss to the Lakers the night before and playing against a rested Timberwolves team, Sunday night’s game had all the trappings of a difficult night for the home team. But with Jusuf Nurkić playing determined basketball on both ends from the opening tip and both CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard making up for poor shooting performances the night before, the Trail Blazers had more than enough firepower to overcome a shorthanded Timbewolves team.

At least after the first quarter. The Timberwolves were able to keep the game close in the first 12 minutes behind 8 points apiece from Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, though that wouldn’t be nearly enough to stave off the impending route.

By time the second quarter came around, both the Trail Blazers’ starting and bench units were able to take advantage of a thin Timberwolves rotation. Portland held the Timberwolves to 21 percent shooting in the second while making half of their own shots to outscore Minnesota 31-18 in the quarter and take a 61-45 lead into the halftime intermission.

The score would never get closer than that. While the Timberwolves technically returned to the court after the intermission, their interest in putting up a fight, let alone winning, seemed casual at best. Portland played their regular rotation in the third quarter, putting up 31 points on 52 percent shooting, while holding the Timberwolves to 19 points to put the game away before the fourth quarter.

"I think it speaks to our maturity," said Damian Lillard. "In the past, we might have let that one slip last night and then come back and been, I guess, too emotional about it, like a younger team would be, kind of holding on to it. It would carry over to tonight, a team without Jimmy Butler and then we would take this one for granted and not have the same energy as last night and end up in a dog fight. Maybe we win it or lose it, but tonight, we came out sharp. Once we got them down, we held them down and pulled away."

From there, all that was left was for both teams to play out the string in the fourth, not that the final 12 minutes were uneventful. Rookie Gary Trent Jr. scored his first points of his NBA career, Caleb Swanigan grabbed five rebounds in 10 minutes and the arena busted into a “MEYERS LEONARD” chant to cap off the best game of the season for the oft maligned center in his sixth season out of Illinois.

“The truth is I was just out there having fun, playing hard," said Leonard, who finished with 15 points, 12 rebounds, two assists and a steal in 21 minutes. "I looked at my shot – I actually didn’t shoot the ball as well as I normally do but my teammates were looking for me, a couple offensive rebounds, making my free throws, so it was fun to be out there. Big win for us, especially after last night. Just happy to continue to do what we do, but I just had fun out there, that’s all there is to it."

TOP PERFORMERS

Five Trail Blazers scored in double figures led by Jusuf Nurkic, who went 8-of-11 from the field for 19 points to go with 12 rebounds, two assists and a block in 23 minutes. It was his second straight double-double and his fifth of the season.

Damian Lillard finished with 18 points (6-16 FG, 1-4 3-PT, 5-6 FT), five rebounds, five assists and one steal in 28 minutes.

CJ McCollum had 16 points (7-14 FG, 1-4 3-PT, 1-1 FT), three rebounds, one assist and two steals in 28 minutes.

Meyers Leonard led Portland’s reserves with 15 points (3-7 FG, 1-4 3-PT, 8-8 FT) and 12 rebounds to go with two assists and one steal. It was his first double-double of the season. His scoring and rebounding totals were both season highs.

Zach Collins scored 11 points off the bench (2-5 FG, 1-2 3-PT, 6-6 FT) to go with two rebounds. It was the sixth game this season that Collins scored in double figures.

LISTEN UP

NOTABLE

• Portland’s 111-81 victory marked its largest margin of victory this season (19, Oct. 30vat Houston) and tied the biggest win over the Timberwolves in franchise history (121-91, 3/30/91).

• The Trail Blazers held Minnesota to 81 points, which is the fewest points scored in an NBA game this season.

• The Timberwolves shot 31.2% from the field, which is lowest field goal percentage for a Trail Blazers opponent this season.

• The Trail Blazers bench outscored Minnesota’s reserves, 44-23.

• The Trail Blazers made a season-high 28 free throws (of 32, 87.5%).

• Portland outrebounded the Timberwolves, 66-38, and outscored them in the paint, 52-40.

• Portland’s 28 rebound advantage on the glass was the second-biggest rebound differential in the league this season (29, Ind. vs. Mem. 10/17/18).

• The Trail Blazers outscored Minnesota in second chance points, 22-13. The Timberwolves bested Portland on the fast break, 14-13.

• With 111 points Sunday night, the Trail Blazers have now scored at least 100 points in their first 10 games this season for the first time since 1981.

QUOTABLE

"We had a good flow offensively. Obviously the second unit has established themselves as an integral part of the team. We’re scoring a lot of points. Defensively, it’s been a little sporadic, but I think what I like best is being 7 and 3.” -- Terry Stotts what he's liked in the first 10 games

NEXT UP

The Trail Blazers continue a six-game homestand Tuesday night by hosting the Milwaukee Bucks in their first and only visit to the Moda Center this season.

“In this league, every night is going to be different," said Jusuf Nurkić. "There is big games coming up and then a long trip coming up, so we’re going to have a nice game and we need to be ready, so we’re going to work out and prepare what we can to do best preparation for ourselves and come to play.”

Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.