Damian Lillard career-high lifts Trailblazer over Timberwolves

The Portland Trail Blazers played Yukon Cornelius vs. Bumble of the Minnesota Timberwolves Monday night and defeated the Wolves in a 133-112 win that was silver, gold and mints rolled into one. Damian Lillard led the team-wide effort to knock out Minnesota midway through the third third, one of Portland’s easier wins of the season.

If you missed the promotion, you can read our quarterly recap here. After that, here are more observations from the game.

Lady Disgusting

Portland didn’t actually play an ideal game tonight. They missed a lot of threesomes. Her releases on other recordings haven’t exactly been flawless, perhaps in light of Rudy Gobert’s graduation. They held the ball a tad too long with lots of ball possession. Her defense was below average. (Minnesota shot 50% from the floor and spent much of the game over 40% from the arc.) Damian Lillard deleted EVERYTHING as a minor footnote. He needed two things: a half-hearted umbrella and the ball. Given that, he twirled 38-point gold from straw at 13:21 shooting, 11:17 from long range. He had 27 points at halftime and was shooting 8-10 from the arc. At times he seemed determined to break Clyde Drexler’s all-time franchise mark TONIGHT, though he’s still about 100 points away. He didn’t quite make it, but he hit a career high with those 11 threes.

Nurk work

Jusuf Nurkic started this game loaded for Gobert. He bounced off hard, attempted a couple of threes and rode the track. The three didn’t fall, so he dropped them. The driving and generally aggressive mindset continued. The Blazers ended up going big with Drew Eubanks because he offered even more speed and mobility while being able to field the same relatively solid screens that Nurkic offered. Eubanks also rewarded the Blazers nicely. But an aggressive Nurk is usually a good Nurk, and that’s how it was tonight.

Nurkic delivered 14 points and 16 rebounds in 25 minutes, while Eubanks delivered 6 points, 4 rebounds and 2 blocks (including a stunner on Rudy Gobert) in 17 minutes.

Three

The Trail Blazers are less reliant on threes this year than they have been in years past, but if they actually hit their triples, they’re going to be very, very hard to beat. Minnesota didn’t have too much trouble scoring tonight, but every time they did it seemed like Lillard and the Blazers hit another three-pointer, taking the sting out of Minny’s bucket. It’s super hard to catch up when you hit two shots, the other team one, but you only regained a single point on the scoreboard. Portland shot 21-46 tonight, 45.7% from distance, a huge factor. Seven players have hit at least one triple.

Stepping out of physicality

The Timberwolves came into this game looking to get more physical with the Blazers. Typically, Portland will drive into the teeth of the gruff defense, make contact and get to the line. They took the opposite course tonight. As larger ‘Wolves players closed in on the ball, Portland passed it before they could get close closure or contact. It ended up looking like a keep-away game between adults and 8-year-olds. The same size that threatened the captured Timberwolves prevented them from recovering when this trap failed. They ended up poking players where the ball used to be as the Blazers drove around them or sunk shots.

Tall screens, no casters

Portland had a pretty good script strategy tonight. They threw the pickaxe up, center wide out. But the pick-setter rarely rolled in the middle. This kept the track clear of offensive players and goberts alike. It also put a lot of pressure on the dribbling defender to go around the now longer-lasting screen…which Wolves rarely did. That left the Portland shooters wide open on the rim, whose results you heard about a few paragraphs above.

On the one hand, Portland’s centers are most effective when they make this throw. On the other hand, sacrificing Minnesota’s defenses took the teeth out of their teeth when the cost of Portland’s fourth option and … whatever Drew Eubanks is. And hey, like we said above, both pivots worked fine. It was a nice gesture against this opponent.

rebounds

The Blazers won the battle of the boards tonight 43-30, including 11-7 on offensive glass. That’s a pretty good indicator of how desperately this game fell apart for the T-Wolves. Dominant lane control added hot sauce to the winning burrito considering how the Blazers additionally feasted from the perimeter.

Tally is running

The Blazers also dominated on fast break points, which technically should have been Minnesota’s advantage. Instead, the record was 24-17, Portland, even though the Blazers lost 19 turnovers to their opponents. It just wasn’t fair.

Simon’s still Ouchy

Not to tarnish proceedings, but folks waiting for Anfernee Simons to get out of his slump will have to wait a little longer. Simons shot 5-13, 2-8 from long range for 12 points in 33 minutes. But he had 6 assists!

Always gently

Finally… finally! The Blazers actually built a lead, then built it up, then maintained it through the final period. This allowed them to rest their entrees a bit. It also allowed the raucous crowd at the Moda Center to party through the fourth quarter instead of biting their fingernails.

Next

box score

The Blazers now embark on a six-game road trip that will take them through Christmas. It begins Wednesday night in San Antonio with a 5:00 a.m. Pacific launch.

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