The Portland Trail Blazers had a five-game overall winning streak and a five-game road winning streak snapped Wednesday night in Minneapolis with a 120-109 loss to the Timberwolves at the Target Center.
The Trail Blazers looked like a team playing their fourth game in five nights, falling behind by as many as 32 before going into the halftime break trailing 69-43.
“Obviously the first half was terrible,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “Minnesota played terrific. They had everything going in transition. We gave up too much in the first half and dug too deep of a hole. I was pleased with the way we competed in the second half. We came back and made it a game. We cut it to 10 and they made the threes, but the first half was a tough one.”
Nothing the Trail Blazers defensively seemed to bother the Timberwolves, as they shot 59 percent from the field in the first half thanks in large part to going 27 of 34 on points in the paint in the first half.
“We let them get too many easy baskets,” said Damian Lillard. “In the first half I think they had 40 or 50 points in the paint. It wasn’t just them going past us, it was us letting them get out in transition, us not finding guys. They were comfortable doing what they do well and we didn’t take them out of their comfort zone and they scored a bunch of points.”
Portland would make a push to start the second half, cutting the lead to 10 with 3:33 to play in the third quarter. But the Timberwolves would finish the quarter on an 18-8 run to extend the lead to back to 19.
Despite the seemingly insurmountable lead, the Trail Blazers, particularly Lillard, refused to go down quietly. Lillard would score nine points, all on three-pointers, to help Portland cut the lead to five with 46 seconds to play. But Minnesota would close the game out with six-straight free throw makes between Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin to ice the 11-point victory.
“We got good looks, we had open shots, we made good plays.” said Lillard. “We just didn’t make the shots. When you’re not making shots you’ve got to find a way to get it done on the other end. By the time we started to actually get it done on that end and make some shots, we were digging ourselves out of a hole. That made it that much tougher. We fought back – I think we cut it to five. If we had done a better job in the first half we would have never been in that position. They deserved to win.”
Lillard finished with 36 points, two short of his career-high, on 13 of 24 shooting while adding six assists, six rebounds and three steals in 41 minutes.
Nicolas Batum ended the night with 20 points, six rebounds, three assists and two blocks in the losing effort.
LaMarcus Aldridge struggled from the field but still managed a double double of 15 points and 14 assists to go along with three assists and a steal.
“It was just one of those nights,” said Aldridge of his seven of 22 shooting performance. “Couldn’t throw a rock in a lake if I tried to, if I was standing in the water. It was just one of those nights where my legs weren’t under me and I couldn’t make any shots. Once you go down that path of not making shots, it just motivates you a little.”
Wesley Matthews rounded out Portland’s double-digit scorers with 16 points.
The Timberwolves were led by Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic, who combined for 59 points and 24 rebounds on 24 of 37 shooting.
“(Love) was looking like George Gervin passing the ball out there,” said Aldridge. “He definitely played great, he led his team tonight.”
With the loss, Portland finishes the four-game trip 3-1, though there was no celebration in the post-game locker room, with some players pointing out that, given the nature of the wins against the Cavaliers and Pistons, the the trip could have easily finished 1-3.
“We’ve got to grow up and continue to play like the hunted,” said Matthews, who described Portland’s record on the trip
as a “mad” 3-1. “We’ve got to keep playing hungry, we’ve got to know that we’re going to get every team’s best shot. People are getting up to play against us and we’ve got to rise to the challenge. We’ve got to embrace the fact that our record is what it is and not just expect to win every game.”
After four games on the road in five nights, Portland now played their next four at home over the course of nine days, starting with the Pelicans at the Moda Center on Saturday. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 PM.
Greetings podcast enthusiasts. Between CJ McCollum getting an extension and Moe Harkless signing a new deal, Portland’s roster for the start of the 2016-17 regular season is all but finalized. So it seemed like a good time to hit the studio with Joe Freeman of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com to record yet another edition of the Rip City Report podcast, which you can listen to below…
On this edition, we discuss the near-max extension for McCollum and the four-year, roughly $40 million contract for Harkless, which directions Terry Stotts might go in terms of starting lineups and minutes allocations, the news that both Al-Farouq Aminu and Festus Ezeli will forego playing for Nigeria at the 2016 Summer Olympics, give a quick rundown of the preseason schedule and answer your Twitter-submitted questions.
Last weekend, Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum and his older brother, Errick, were guests on ESPN’s SportsCenter to discuss, amongst other things, The Basketball Tournament, which is billed as a “open application, 5-on-5, single-elimination, winner-take-all basketball tournament” in which the winning team takes home $2 million in prize money. Errick’s team, Overseas Elite, won the tournament last year and are in the finals, which airs Tuesday at 4 PM Pacific on ESPN, again this year.
But the tournament wasn’t the only topic of conversation, as any time you get two brothers together, you’re contractually obligated to ask them which is mom’s favorite. One one had, CJ still lives with his mom, so you might assume he’s the got the No. 1 son ranking sewn up, but it sounds like Errick was the much better behaved child and mom’s tend to have long memories, so it sounds like it’s a bit of a tossup.
“CJ, he was a good kid,” said Errick, “he just liked to get into things. He was really physical. She couldn’t take him around any other kids or he would, like, get into little altercations with them because he just played too rough.”
Sounds about right.
On Thursday, Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was a guest on The Doug Gottlieb Show on CBS Sports Radio. Over the 15 minute conversation, Stotts discusses LeBron James saying he would have been his pick for 2016 NBA Coach of the Year, Kevin Durant signing as a free agent with the Golden State Warriors, the notion of “super teams” in the NBA, having confidence in your players and his participation in the Men’s Wearhouse National Suit Drive.
You can listen to the entire interview here, though I’m transcribed a portion which you can read below…
On LeBron James saying Stotts should have been Coach of the Year:
“To be honest, it felt pretty good. I have a lot of respect obviously for LeBron, what he does and what he’s done in his career, but for him to come out and say that, it made me feel good.”
On Cleveland winning the NBA Finals after being down 3-1 to Golden State:
“Obviously it was historical. A lot of things went into it, but when a team can do that and to win two games on the road being down 3-1, it’s really remarkable. It just put an end to a historical season as it was with Golden State and what they did during the regular season, the way they came back against Oklahoma City and then for Cleveland to do that, it was just remarkable. I thought it was a remarkable season to begin with and it finished that way.”
On Kevin Durant signing with the Warriors:
“My first reaction was he earned the right to be a free agent. I know a lot of thought went into it and it wasn’t a decision that he took lightly. I know he took a lot of criticism for making that decision but I think he earned that right to make whatever decision he felt was best for him. I think it’s going to be interesting with Golden State. Obviously defending them is going to be a challenge because — we talked about versatility — they were already an extremely talented offensive team and he’s going to make them better. They’re going to be a different team than they were last year, they’re not going to have the big guys. When you lose Festus Ezeli, who is on our team now, and Andre Bogut and Maurice Speights, the look of their frontline is going to be different. But I think they could be just as good just because of what they’ll be able to do at the offensive end.”
His thoughts on “super teams” in the NBA:
“You know, I don’t know if it’s good or bad for the league. I’ve just kind of accepted that that’s the way things are. I know people have made comparisons when LeBron went to Miami and that was supposedly the first super team and they won two championships, but it’s not like there was a five year, seven year run dynasty. When you get out on the court, you still have to play the games. Obviously Golden State is going to be very good, but you’ve got to play an 82-game season, you’ve got to go through four series to win a championship. I think the league does thrive on star power, whether it’s star power within a team or having a team be a star. I don’t know, I think the league is doing extremely well, I think it’s extremely popular. I think this is just another story that people are going to be interested in.”
On having confidence in shooters like Allen Crabbe and CJ McCollum:
“I’m a big believer in confidence when shooting. It probably goes back to my freshman year in college when I didn’t know whether to shoot or (laughs) you know the phrase. But anyway, I’m a big believer in confidence and Allen and CJ are two different categories. CJ struggled with injuries his first two years and was trying to get incorporated into a roster that was winning 50 games and never really got into a rhythm. I think shooting is about rhythm and confidence. Same thing for AC, really, is that he did have opportunities to play in his first two years but he was playing behind Wes Matthews and Nic Batum and his opportunities on the court were limited. When you’re looking over your shoulder and trying not to make mistakes and putting pressure on (yourself) to make a shot, it’s difficult. I really give it to CJ and Allen, they were ready for this year and they were prepared for it, the opportunity was going to be there. But I think that a lot of players — and you know, you played — is that if the coach trusts me, I’m going to play better. Whether I trusted them or not their first two years, certainly their opportunity was there and I trusted them with the role that they were going to have.”
On his participation in the Men’s Wearhouse National Suit Drive:
“Every year what I do is I go through the closet and knowing that I’m going to get some suits in the fall, I go through and weed out the older ones. There’s certain ones that I do kind of have a special place in my heart for them, but other than that, I just take some of the older suits and the Men’s Wearhouse has a great program with the suit drive to give away suits to people who can use them. I’m kind of a bigger guy so hopefully there’s some big guys out there who are able to take advantage of them.”