Free Kicks, Fouls Doom Trail Blazers vs. Timberwolves (2023)

OPortland-Trail-BlazerEMorre Minnesota TimberwolvesThey didn't have a good game on Wednesday night, but they made up for their lack of style with (mostly) decent effort and put up a close fight for 48 minutes. Damian Lillard weathered a 7-18 night and scored 27 points to lead his team into the second half, in which he was the only operating scorer. Jerami Grant had no offensive problems, going 8-14, 4-6 from long range and scoring 26. But the return of Taurean Prince, a great fourth quarter from Anthony Edwards (32 points total) and a whole host of problems conspired around Portland to avoid winning. The Blazers fell 113-106 against a shaky conference rival and dropped to 19-18 on the season.

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first room

The game got off to a sloppy start, with both teams missing a lot of shots. The Blazers tried to lure Rudy Gobert out by using Jusuf Nurkic to set up the canvases. They opened up the middle but failed to convert attempts. The Wolves went straight to Anfernee Simons and found a bit of success, but they didn't set the world on fire either. The sales didn't help Portland. However, Jerami Grant did. When all else failed, Portland Grant fed from the inside and delivered, via platter or overturn. The shots came late, but fell.

The agonizingly slow pace didn't add to the game's aesthetic quality, but it did keep the Blazers close on the scoreboard. The record was 11–9, Timberwolves after six minutes of play. Simon's tally of two fouls in that period was the most notable development.


After that time, Minnesota got smart and started attacking the basket hard. When the Blazers defended on the first attempt. Wolves were often given a follow-up. When they started flexing the rim, they started judging. Portland's only response was to raise three, none of which came close. With just over three minutes to go, the Timberwolves extended their lead to eight, 19–11.

It only got worse as Portland's turnovers continued and Minnesota, who were challenging three-pointers, hit some deep balls. This took the game from weird to weird. At one point, they nearly doubled the Blazers, 27–14. Luka Garza, the OTHER Minnesota center, inserted 11 at Portland during that time. Wolves went 3-6 from three, Portland 2-9. The first punch, delayed by Keon Johnson, made the score more respectable. A last-second steal and a triple on the horn saved her. Minnesota led 29–24 after one.

second bedroom

The Blazers started the second quarter by turning the offense around, moving to the sidelines and trying to give Minnesota a dose of its own medicine. Unfortunately, all shots were blocked or missed. Once again, the Timberwolves were more successful. And again, Portland's wing guard, this time Sharpe, called two quick fouls. In two and a half minutes, Minny's lead was double digits again.

Jerami Grant came to the rescue again, scoring seven goals in a row to bring the lead back to seven. But Minnesota came in and rallied with a few possessions. Then Grant hit a three. And then another. If layups and short shots weren't enough, the long ball would have to do. Apparently, Grant can do anything.

JG Fireworks cut the lead to five, then Dame hit a three on the Minnesota score, then Sharpe used an offensive rebound after a miss by Lillard. Suddenly, and somewhat strangely, the Blazers are back in business. Drew Eubanks followed with free throws and a baseline hook over Garza, proving Minnesota isn't the only team with a surprise center. Although the defense couldn't keep up and the turnovers continued, Portland held onto the Wolves' 4-6 lead going into the final minutes.

With the Blazers still insisting on bringing him on, the whistles started to get to the Portlands. This gave Portland another revenue stream on the scoreboard. They needed it, as Minnesota itself had yet to meet resistance to scoring on the periphery. But Portland let it slip with the final stakes of the second quarter, just as Minnesota did in the first quarter. Twelve turnovers into the half kept the Blazers from catching up despite their offensive improvement. Minnesota led 60-53 at halftime.

Third quarter

Anfernee Simons made her intentions known at the head of the third, scoring from the edge and with a short jump. Jump in another concession three and suddenly the Blazers were within two again. When Grant was fouled on a three a few possessions later, the Blazers tied it again.

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Portland helped their cause by using all players in uniform to stop the invasion, which they failed to do in the first half. They line up four or five players, block and take out, and do what they can to keep shots from appearing. Given Minnesota's three-point shooting ability, it wasn't a bad call. Whether Wolves will be able to overcome the trend in the final quarters, as they did in the first two, remains to be seen.

When Minnesota couldn't find success with their small players, they sent in the big ones. They got Gobert a tray on a roll. They pulled on defense and then hit Austin Rivers for a successful open turn three. Portland let them work, but they didn't leave.

Damian Lillard, who started to take office himself, was also unsuccessful. He drove down the lane, converted a layup on one try, tied up fouls on another, and converted again on a third. For all their production, however, the Blazers couldn't do much better than keep up with Minnesota. It's not that the Wolves were playing well; Portland just couldn't stop licking the tip. Being tied was better than losing by 6-10 points, but the idea was to win. Despite MORE layups from Lillard, Portland didn't make it.

But damned if Lillard's thrusts didn't point the way to Sharpe and Nurkic, who also entered the restricted area with authority. When Minnesota tried to top the checkers, its countrymen stepped up.

Taurean Prince reappeared late in the third, hitting an English finger roll of three and a white ball, pushing Wolves to a half-dozen point lead. When the term ended, they showed Portland their speed-learning skills, driving the Blazers the way they did and taking the same free kicks. Portland's zone defenses failed at what zone defenses were supposed to do: prevent easy penetration. Despite Lillard's big fourth, Minnesota took an 89-85 lead in the final three.

fourth quarter

The fourth quarter started much like the first, with sloppy play and many missed shots. Lillard hit a three, which was like the roar of a volcano. He and Nurkic also made a good pick and roll as Minnesota doubled to prevent another potential triple. But the eruption did not come early.

Instead, the Blazers were called on four team fouls in the first 2:30 hours of the period, including Nurkic, who conceded his fifth. The Blazers sat heavily while Simons, Grant and Nurkic sat: Grant with a hamstring injury, Ant and Nurk with near DQs. The game turned into a game of checkers or nothing.

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Though Dame didn't spill buckets, he did commit fouls, including Prince's fifth, reducing Minnesota's offensive potential and offsetting free-throw potential in critical time.

With neither team scoring, neither managed to escape. Minnesota led 96-95 at 6:00 in the period. At that point, Chauncey Billups had no choice but to finish off his strongest players. Grant had already checked possession. Simons came in carrying his five fouls. Nurkic would return soon after.

After the Portand starters came back, Anthony Edwards showed them and hit one shot and two free throws on back-to-back possessions. That put the Wolves up to five, 100-95 with 5:00 left. Minnesota outscored Lillard again, forcing the ball into other players. Hart was already missing in the fourth. Simons and Nurkic followed suit. Then Edwards scored again to make the lead seven.

When good didn't work, luck had to do. Simons hit a drifting stranger with one hand in the alley he was fouled on. The free throw conversion made the score 102-98, leaving Minnesota with 4:04.

The Blazers got a nifty exchange on the next possession when the officials called a foul on a gobert attempt, which they reversed to a clean block after checking. The Blazers gained possession and Lillard converted free throws on the ensuing foul.

They returned it early in the next game, when Nurkic was called for his sixth foul on a post by Gobert. For the rest, the Blazers would have to make do with Eubanks.

At this point the game was just plain ugly, punctuated by fouls, with a shot attempted every five minutes in real time. He made possessions isolated, random and strange.

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That's weird? Lillard missed a wide turn three, which then turned into a rebound and resulted in a three-point splash by Edwards. That's hell backwards, but here we are.

Next time on the ground for the Lobos, Edwards lost a runner, but Gobert rallied from the much smaller Eubanks. Rudy got up and called the sixth foul on Eubanks. Now Billups had no centers and almost no power forwards.

The Portland coach scored and put Shaedon Sharpe on the field. Sharpe promptly pressed charges against Prince, Portland's 16th upset of the night. Edwards then made a layup. Lillard hit a three but Edwards converted again on the ensuing trip. Portland still hasn't managed to stop the wolves. Eventually, your chances of trying are over. When Lillard missed his seventh free throw of the night with 1:09 to go and Portland missed eight, the score was certain.


Stay tuned for a game review coming soon!

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Blazers travel to Indiana to compete therepacemakeron Friday night at 4 pm at the Pacific Rim.


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