The Portland Trail Blazers could be accused of scrambling, fielding a shaky lineup, or not knowing how to play basketball very well where they faced off. Minnesota Timberwolves Sunday afternoon. However, they cannot be accused of being heartless. Hopelessly sized, overrated, and with nothing to play for, the Blazers still put up one effort. They ran transition, rebounded hard, passed freely, and squeezed every drop of production out of their poor rotation. The result was a 107-105 victory for the Blazers.
You read that right… Triumph. victory. Real real win.
Shedon Sharp led the Blazers by throwing 27 at 9-19, and the team leader in offense down the stretch. He got a lot of help from Kevin Knox II, who scored 19 goals off the bench. Only Anthony Edwards surpassed them, with 37. No other Timberwolves player has ever scored more than 13.
The win gives Portland a 33-45 record. nope the Indiana Pacers And Orlando Magic She has 44 losses. Indiana plays in Cleveland today, while hosting the Magic Detroit Pistons. A loss for both teams would tie them with Portland for the fifth-worst record in the league and corresponding odds in the upcoming 2023. NBA Draft lottery drawing This is the hidden cost of this victory. But the players on the field deserved it, and they deserved it nonetheless.
Here’s how it went.
The Timberwolves knew what was going to happen from the moment the game rolled around. They expected Portland to play territory and adjusted accordingly. They put a big man in the middle of the floor and keep the wingers exactly in the diagonal positions of the basket, precisely where the 2-3 zone cannot be covered. From there, they had a range of choices on how to get the ball to the hoop. Move or pass to the center or simply toss them around the perimeter for easy shots.
A funny thing happened on the way to the demolition. The wolves had a hard time making out with their open looks. Trendon Watford and Blazers did not. Watford scored 6 points in the first 3 minutes as Portland opened a 10-5 lead. Minnesota was playing shaky, and the Blazers with abandon.
Play remained scattered and unsightly for the remainder of the starting bout. This played completely into Portland’s hands. Watford and co continued to turn quick, short drags into the lane that Minnesota seemed completely uninterested in stopping. The ‘Wolves converted passes and returns, but were unable to score more than three feet to save their lives.
Rudy Gobert began to assert himself inside as Wolves discovered they had an unbeatable size advantage, but Drew Eubanks made a somewhat comical save with three pointer and energetic defensive hands. Portland continued to play fast throughout. They never give up on those shots in the lane either. If anything — and I can’t believe I’m writing this — the Blazers’ inside defense was better, and certainly more energetic, than Minnesota’s.
But ‘the Wolves really did develop an advantage with shots straight to the edge, a place the Blazers weren’t equipped for offense or self-defense. Minnesota hit only three off-track attempts within the first nine minutes, but they hit a complete home run of zero.
Once it came time to check into the Portland bench, the implication changed. Since a number of Trail Blazers do not run, their second unit is much like the fifth. Meanwhile, the Wolves still had players like Karl-Anthony Towns on the floor, who had played more NBA minutes combined than Portland’s entire active roster at this point.
The Blazers had another card to play. Their energetic juniors posted half a dozen offensive rebounds in that span, creating extra chances and some close shots they would otherwise have missed. As a result, Portland held a 5-7 point lead for most of the period, finishing with a 31-28 lead.
Despite this, Portland’s bench players couldn’t hold it together for long. Once the Timberwolves had the opportunity to sit down and truly They thought things through during the break between quarters, and realized the Blazers were doing their best and nothing else. The Wolves came out running harder, bouncing better, and getting the ball around the field quicker on the second kickoff. At that point, the tide was beginning to turn.
In particular, Minnesota picked up its lane defense. Easy shots in the paint disappeared from the first quarter. And the Blazers found themselves relying on three-pointers instead. Fortunately, the wolves didn’t rampage along the way. They did not come out to bow. Shaedon Sharpe got them pushed with a pair of three-pointers that kept his team afloat.
The Life Ring was a bit floppy, though. The Wolves started hitting three of their own, plus they turned some of that newly hurried defense into transitional buckets…the exact advantage the Blazers had during their successful first period. Eubank, Watford and Sharp continued to stand as best they could, but one Anthony Edwards was enough to spur the Timberwolves to a 14-2 victory against Portland’s Big Three.
That run put the game into territory more familiar to Portlandans, as they were down by 10 minutes with two minutes remaining. Minnesota got sloppy with the ball late on, allowing the Blazers a few easy buckets. That allowed Portland to sneak within six, 62-56, of the half.
Portland held its respects as the third period began playing the same way they did in the first: running in whenever they could, taking it inside when they couldn’t, using the three-pointer as a backup option. The big difference was, instead of pulling the paint up, they took it right from the edge. This allowed the Timberwolves’ larger defensemen to set up, leaving picks hotly contested. Portland hit only 3 of his first 8 attempts on the edge in the first 9:00 of the third.
Furthermore, Portland committed the double sins of turning the ball over and not coming out to defend the three-point arc. Minnesota’s attempts came from either 6 inches or 23 feet, no in between. As a result, they built a 14-point lead as the third period began to slip.
Minnesota’s only hiccups early on were Towns committing his fourth foul at the 8:43 mark, leaving him on the bench for the remainder of the period. He wasn’t hurt at first, but he was about to catch up with them.
Just when it looked like the game was getting away, the Blazers gave the ball back. The Wolves began to fumble and fumble again. As a result, Portland ran out of runs. Meanwhile, Minnesota’s inability to hold the ball kept them on shot attempts far fewer than the Blazers got. Quantity trumped quallity. Within two minutes, that was down. The 14-point lead was again 2. Portland was burying the Timberwolves under a quick transition bucket attack.As the third quarter ended, the Blazers trailed only 86-82.
The fourth quarter
The beginning of the fourth game was gummy and ugly for both teams. They struggled to score, or even establish reasonable possession. On the one hand, it favored the Blazers, who were definitely going to lose a normal game, let alone a pretty one. Portland, on the other hand, had to catch up, and scoring two points each in three minutes wouldn’t let you do that.
Portland got another break at the 9:19 mark when hardcore driver Kevin Knox II — a defining bright spot for the Blazers of the day — scored the fifth foul on Towns. Towns’ absence left “Wolverhampton” without a mid-range top scorer. This allowed Portland to play inside defense, driving fumbles in the arc and blocking Joubert from the ball. The bricks and rotation allowed for the runoff buckets on which the Blazers thrived.
When newcomer Jennathan Williams hit a triple and a crossover loss in a row, Portland found itself leading 91-88 with 7:56 remaining. You read that right. leader. in the fourth.
Minnesota came out of that timeout rejuvenated on defense, intent on getting the ball to Joubert, their 7’1 insurance policy. The energetic Blazers saw it coming, denying and swarming. That left the secondary scorers trying to convert. They got corner kicks and short shots, but couldn’t convert.
Portland didn’t have much success on the edge either, as Joubert single-handedly held it off. They needed to drive fast or stand ten feet off. It remains to be seen if they can win this way, but they were going to try.
Portland experimented with a few two-man plays in the halffield, starting with the ball in the hands of scoring threats—Sharp or Knox—and then shooting to diving breakers as the T-Wolves closed in. Keeping Minnesota moving helped negate Joubert’s advantage. At 4:00, Portland still leads by 4, 98-94.
Unable to capitalize on their outsized positions, the ‘Wolves instead went to another potential nightmare of the game, allowing Mike Conley to be named to Portland’s new roster of point guards. Here, they finally found success. Conley converted free throws on a perimeter foul, then broke the defense to set up a three from Joubert to Anthony Edwards. Minnesota tool standout again. But Sharpe would convert a layup with 2:02 remaining to tie the score at 100.
Skyler Mays caught another layup on the next possession, then Conley ran out of luck as he missed three. Sharpe drove hard again and drew a foul, converting the free throws to give Portland a 104-100 lead with a minute remaining.
Portland’s defense held strong against Conley for the first 12 seconds of their next possession, but “the Wolves hit a shit when Conley made a save to Anthony Edwards.” The Minnesota star guard shook his head, asked, “What are we doing here???” and then drove aggressively for a clear layup. And 1. The Wolves came back within 1, 104-103, with the game approaching nail-biting time.
Shedon Sharp never seems to shake. With his team needing a bucket, he drove it right through the teeth of the Timberwolves defense, stared Gobert in the face, and converted a layup around him. Portland led 106-103 with 25 seconds left.
The Timberwolves wanted a three on the next possession, but Portland diligently covered the arc. Edwards ended up driving again, this time getting an unopposed dunk against a spread defense. Portland called timeout up 106-105, 17 seconds remaining.
Minnesota was able to knock the ball out of bounds on a wild inside attempt by Sharpe in the backcourt. Portland’s ball ruled, but his fingertip touches were close. It was the type of play in which a pursuing defender pushed the ball away, but the attacking player’s fingers may technically have been on the ball last at the nearly simultaneous moment… A rule traditionally applied to offense, where the defense causes the momentum of the offense. This is how it was held back in this case as well. Portland is back inside again, 15.6 seconds left,
This time, scrolling was much safer. And that was the good news. The ball went to Eubanks, who up until that point had been a free throw. That is bad news. Eubanks hit 1 of 2. Portland led 107-105 Minnesota one more shot with 14.4 remaining, no timeouts.
Once again, the Wolves tried to get a three. Portland defended well. Kyle Anderson ended up with a four-foot scoop shot for the tie, but he threw it over the backboard. Against all odds, the Blazers held on for a two-point victory.
Stay tuned for our extended analysis of the game, coming soon!
Portland’s wild ride continues on Tuesday as they face off Memphis Grizzlies With 5:00 PM, the start of the Pacific Ocean.
“Introvert. Subtly charming web geek. Lifelong entrepreneur. Amateur social media expert. Coffee trailblazer.”