It was a tough night in Minnesota. The Trail Blazers (38-39) lost to the Timberwolves (31-45), 110-109, but they get a quick chance to bounce back tonight against the Utah Jazz (47-30). With five games remaining Portland’s magic number remains at a four. Four wins over there final five games and the Blazers will eliminate the Denver Nuggets (36-40) from the playoffs and clinch the eighth and final playoff spot out west.
To grab the win in Utah the Blazers will need to drastically improve their interior defense. The Timberwolves exposed the Blazers on Monday, giving Portland a harsh taste of reality of life without Jusuf Nurkić. Without the big-bodied Nurkić available to defend Karl-Anthony Towns, the T’Wolves’ big man had a field day. Towns scored 34 points on 15 of 25 shooting, and pulled down 12 rebounds. He took it right at Meyers Leonard, scoring with ease, and left the Blazers perplexed as to how to defend him. To be fair it was an off night for Blazers, yet they nearly won the game on a last second shot from Damian Lillard. As the great Vince Lombardi would say- the Blazers didn’t lose the game, they just ran out of time.
The Blazers had contributions from just about everybody on the floor. Six players scored in double-figures, led by Damian Lillard with 25, and Al-Farouq Aminu also had one of his better games of the season putting up a stat line of 20 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three blocks. The only player that failed to make much of on impact was Leonard. While the team put together a decent game, they will need far more from Nurkić’s replacement if they want to grab a win in Utah.
Leonard, starting his second game in place of the injured Nurkić, failed to score a point and finished with just two rebounds and two assists. Leonard is averaging just 3.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 1.0 assists in his past two games. The Blazers will need far more from him in these final five games, especially on the defensive end where it seems they miss Nurkić the most. The Blazers still control their own destiny, but letting a game like the one in Minnesota slip away makes it that much harder to secure that final playoff spot.
Getting back on the right track won’t be very easy in Utah. The Blazers have split the season series with the Jazz, losing the last matchup 111-88 on the road. In those two games Jazz center Rudy Gobert is averaging 12.5 points, 13.0 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks. Star forward Gordon Hayward missed the first matchup due to injury, but had 22 points, six rebounds, and seven assists in the second matchup. Both he and Gorbert will be key factors in whether or not the Blazers grab a victory.
We will help set the stage for tonight’s game with an all-new Rip City Live starting at 5:00pm only on CSN.
And if you can’t get to a TV, you can check out The Scoop Pregame Show streaming live on your mobile phone, tablet, or computer at 5:00pm at Facebook.com/CSNNW.
Where: Vivint Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City UT
Television: CSN, 6:00pm
CSN Programming: Rip City Live (5:00pm), Talkin' Ball (Immediately after the Blazers postgame show)
Live streaming: Watch an authenticated stream of the game at CSNNW.com/BlazersStream or on the NBC Sports App! Plus the Scoop Pregame Show streams at 5:00pm at Facebook.com/CSNNW. The Scoop Postgame Show will stream immediately after the game at Facebook.com/CSNNW
Radio: Rip City Radio 620