Trail Blazers

Trail Blazers hold off Timberwolves in first of back-to-back between the two

Trail Blazers
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The Trail Blazers brought the energy Saturday night.

But so did Minnesota.

Damian Lillard went into facilitator mode early with Enes Kanter and Derrick Jones Jr. combining for 15 of the Blazers’ first 18 points. The duo helped the Blazers take a 33-24 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Portland’s second unit didn’t let up either when the Trail Blazers starters went to the bench. The Blazers took a 66-57 halftime lead. 

But with Karl Anthony Towns scoring in bunches in the third quarter, the Timberwolves took the lead with 3.0 seconds remaining in the third.  

Minnesota outscored Portland by 10 in the third quarter.

Thanks to Carmelo Anthony's fourth-quarter performance including hot three-point shooting along with clutch free throws, the Blazers defeated the T-Wolves, 125-121.  

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After a sloppy start for both teams, the Trail Blazers had plenty of scorers and plenty of spunk on the defensive end early on against the young Minnesota Timberwolves.

To start the second half, it was the Lillard and Kanter show.

Portland was still without Harry Giles (left calf strain), CJ McCollum (left midfoot fracture), Jusuf Nurkic (right wrist fracture) and Zach Collins (left ankle stress fracture).

For the Timberwolves, Jarrett Culver (left great toe; strain), D'Angelo Russell (left knee; surgery), Jordan McLaughlin (health and safety protocols) and Malik Beasley (league suspension) were out.

FINAL BOX SCORE: Trail Blazers 125, Timberwolves 121  

The Good: 

It was all about the Blazers frontcourt scoring early on.

Derrick Jones Jr. was aggressive on the offensive end from the jump. Jones Jr. worked the baseline and the perimeter shooting with confidence. He has now made at least one three-pointer in seven straight games.

Enes Kanter led all scorers with 12 points in the first quarter on a perfect 5-of-5 from the field. He finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds. 

While Lillard notched a double-double of 24 points and 10 assists after recording seven assists in the first quarter alone.

On the other end, Gary Trent Jr. led the charge to put extra pressure on the Timberwolves and rookie Anthony Edwards. Trent Jr. came up with loose balls, deflections, and totaled four steals for the game. But Edwards was the go-to offensive player late in Saturday's game. 

And as the Trail Blazers continue to deal with injuries to CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic, Nassir Little has become a promising spark off the bench. The two-year forward showed off his athleticism and his dunking ability against the Timberwolves, while also making an impact on the defensive end and under the basket.

 

Little notched six points and four rebounds in the first half. He has been playing with more confidence and becoming a reliable wing on both ends.  

But to end the game it was all about Carmelo Anthony's three-pointers, his playmaking, his defense, he was key in the Blazers securing a victory. 

[RELATED]: Carmelo Anthony passes Hakeem for 11th on the all-time NBA scoring list

The Bad:  

Saturdays contest had more of a pick-up game feel with neither team applying much pressure on the defensive end. Karl Anthony Towns took advantage of that finishing with 34 points and eight boards.

The Trail Blazers gave up a lot of open shots, especially from three. Fortunately for Portland, Minnesota was not able to convert.

Both the Blazers and Timberwolves committed more turnovers than their coaches would like to see as well. 

After looking like they were going to run away with it, the Trail Blazers allowed Minnesota to get back into the game late in the second quarter.

And with Anthony Towns leading the charge in the third quarter Minnesota did not go away quietly. The T-Wolves big man also took advantage of Portlands small-ball lineup.    

The Highlight:

After dropping dimes all night, Lillard went into attack mode in the third:

 

The Stat: 

Portland held a nine-point lead at the break despite shooting uncharacteristic 27.8 percent (5-19) from three for the half.

Next up: The Trail Blazers will face the Timberwolves in a second night of a back-to-back Sunday night. The Blazers and T-Wolves are scheduled to tip-off at 5:00p.m. PST on NBCSNW, the official network of the Portland Trail Blazers.