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Blazers 123, Wolves 114: A Trip Down Wolves-Blazers Memory Lane…(Instead of focusing on that terrible Wolves performance)

The Wolves and Blazers used to have something of an internet rivalry.  I suppose it originated with the 2006 draft-night trade of Brandon Roy for Randy Foye.  Draft decisions and especially draft trades can create lasting links between franchises that necessitate ongoing comparisons.  Flipping the 6th and 7th picks was bound to do that for these two teams. That Minnesota and Portland play in the same Northwest Division, guaranteeing four annual matchups and a vague sense of shared league geography, only accentuated the fan consciousness of how the other team was doing.

For us, this was not favorable. Roy’s career, while cut tragically short via missing menisci (eds note: even if David Kahn did not get the memo when he later signed Roy out of medical retirement), was wonderful. He won Rookie of the Year and made three straight All-Star teams. It wasn’t just Roy either. Not even close, actually. In the same 2006 Draft, the Blazers traded up to acquire LaMarcus Aldridge. Never a superstar of Roy’s caliber, Aldridge was a steady two-way player who has gone on to make six All-Star teams of his own. And, of course, they had Greg Oden. In the stretches between 2008 and 2010 when all of Roy, Aldridge, and Oden were on the floor, the Blazers had the undisputed Team of the Future.

In the four seasons spanning from 2007-08 through 2010-11, the Blazers won 41, 54, 50, and 48 games. By the end of that stretch, Roy’s knees were grinding dust and Oden was gone. But for much of it, Portland was the up-and-coming team to watch.

Minnesota, by contrast, was miserable. Some of it was simple rebuilding. They traded away a franchise-player veteran for a pile of young upside. Al Jefferson was good. Ryan Gomes and Sebastian Telfair were serviceable. Theo Ratliff was hurt and his expiring contract was un-utilized. Gerald Green sucked. Some of it was poor management. They drafted intelligently once (Kevin Love in 2008) and then stupidly twice (Jonny Flynn and Wes Johnson in 2009-10). Some of it was bad coaching. Randy Wittman. Kurt Rambis. Some of it was bad luck. Al Jefferson tore his ACL in early 2010 when he was playing like a fringe All-Star and the team was finally starting to win games.

But add up the shaky front office moves, poor coaching, unlucky injuries, and the rebuilding starting point… it was rough. In that ’07-08 through ’10-11 stretch, the Wolves won 22, 24, 15, and 17 games. In their 16 matchups with Portland, they lost 16 times.

The Blazers were like the Wolves’ bully older brother of the Northwest Division.

Anyway, that’s some random background about these clubs that I sometimes think about. Since that era, the Wolves have had different team links. People will never stop talking about Kahn passing on Steph Curry in 2009. For that, Wolves-Warriors carries a bit of extra meaning. And with the Jimmy Butler trade, Taj Gibson signing, and Tom Thibodeau franchise leadership, the Wolves and Bulls will be compared for years to come.

It’s a way to supply this long season with layers of intrigue. Portland seems like a phenomenal basketball city, and if both of these teams ever become great at the same time, I would enjoy the internet banter that goes along with it.

Tonight’s game:

It wasn’t a good one for the visiting Timberwolves. After a first half where they mostly held small leads but were tied at the break, they were blown off the Rose Garden floor in the second. They stopped doing the stuff that was working (feed Wiggins and let him drive into the lane) and REALLY gave up on playing any semblance of aggressive defense.

On the other end of the floor, the Blazers played Peak Terry Stotts basketball, spreading the Wolves defense out and abusing them with ball screen action for Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. The Blazers got hot from downtown and never turned back. And the Wolves defense never really encouraged them to do so.  The Blazers scored 43 points in the third quarter, hitting 7 threes in that period alone.  Their lead grew to 19 in the fourth quarter and the game never really seemed in doubt.

This play was a dagger, even if just an emotional one:

Jimmy Butler did not play in this game, the third consecutive that he’s missed due to right knee soreness.  This meant three things:

  1. Wiggins got more touches again, and used those touches effectively again.  Wig dropped 24 points in 32 minutes of action in this one and was one of the only things that went right for the Wolves.
  2. The team defense was bad.  Yes, Portland shot well, but that’s what Portland does.  The idea is to defend their shooters so they have to try other things.  In this game, Lillard (31 points) and McCollum (28 points) pretty much did what they wanted, when they wanted.  Jimmy would’ve helped prevent that from happening.
  3. Jimmy’s knee issue lingers on.  Hopefully it’s nothing too serious, but the longer any player sits out with vague knee soreness, the more we have to worry that it’s a real problem.

Here’s the final box:

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5 thoughts on “Blazers 123, Wolves 114: A Trip Down Wolves-Blazers Memory Lane…(Instead of focusing on that terrible Wolves performance)

  1. Those are some traumatic memories: Rambis is one of the worst head coaches I’ve ever seen.

    Life without Jimmy is beginning to drag us down… Hope he’s OK. No reason to think he’s not, and the rest will do him good.

    What is up with this? Wiggins is bound to get a lot more touches with Butler out. I get it. I encourage it. It might even be a helpful Wiggins jump start. But again with the KAT avoidance! Andrew took 17 shots to KAT’s 9. Also with more shots than KAT: Teague (12) Bjelly (11) and Crawford (10). Does this make sense? Up to now, it hasn’t been biting us too badly, but it hurt in this one not to have KAT more involved on offense. Wiggins was efficient, and that provided damage control, but he won’t always be. (Interesting to note he was a team low -24) KAT generally is efficient, unlike Wiggins. Love that KAT is an All Star while Wiggins will be sitting at home…

    That’s not to hate on Wiggins, of course. He did well on O, and made relatively good shot selection. But he really played poorly on the defensive end. Almost everyone did. KAT and Gorgui didn’t pick things up like they need to. Teague was absolutely a liability. I think Jim said that this is a game that gives Teague doubters fuel. And his offense wasn’t good (though buoyed again by free throws, 7 in all). This exposes Teague and what a problem defending tough scoring guards he has, but we sort of expect this by now. What is amazing is that Wiggins can’t guard McCollum. Just physically, he has such an advantage. Pathetic is a word that comes to mind. We missed Jimmy’s D most in this one.

    For some reason, Thibs was inclined to use the bench more in this one. Tyus struggled with scoring, but he did have 5 assists (to Teague’s 3, yuck guys) in more minutes that usual (21). It didn’t really help much, and the expanded bench minutes meant that Tyus still didn’t mix much with starters. This allowed Teague’s style and lack of D disruption to bog down the starters. Crawford had a good scoring night but was like a bronze statue on D. It was actually funny at times. Dare I say we could use a little more Shabazz just for the heck of it?

    Kind of a poorly played game all around. But Portland had 2 guys go off (guess which two! Surprise!). Also, they did one thing great–three point shooting, while we did nothing great. We are never going to be able to take and make enough threes with this roster to go toe to toe with an effort like that. We have to play better D, and chase guys off the three point line better. And chip away by slowly expanding out 3 point game. The ease with which they got the three point game they wanted was pathetic. Connaughton looks like a real player. He’s pretty fun to watch.

  2. Yeah Jimmy was sorely missed in this one. Wiggins cannot guard CJ and Teague didn’t look interested at contesting Lilards 3s. If Jimmy doesn’t return tonight I might not even watch. Warriors are going to crush the Wolves with their 3s. Hopefully Kat looks more motivated today. Seems like after his name was called to the all star team he decided he could use a break.

  3. Defensively, I thought we started the game well and Wiggins continued playing like the star we thought he would be, but the two PG were not able to compete and the Blazers were not going to let KAT get easy looks. However, Petey was right, that Towns should be able to spin off his man and get a dunk when they overplay the entry pass and keep him from getting low position. Actually, last night, Wiggins could also add that to his repertoire when being guarded by a smaller guy like Evans or McCollum. That should be an easy part of their game to add and a former PG was pretty good at making those passes. The current one, I’m not so sure. Even Tyus isn’t the best lob passer.

    I’m not a big Teague fan, but that sequence at the end of the quarter when he held the ball until we had three seconds left and then threw up a three that didn’t hit iron for a shot clock violation was just awful. Then he fouls Lilliard and let him shoot two FT before the end of the quarter. That sequence would have killed any chance to play again if it was BAZ or a player that Thibs didn’t hand pick himself. Our team is so vanilla when it comes to these plays, I wonder if Thibs even cares about them? Momentum changes when last second shots go in, but they don’t have to always be ISO plays to be the dagger. Great passing and a dunk or lay-in can also do the trick. You would think this team could mix it up a little.

    I don’t understand what is going on with this team and its commitment to a game plan. They were excellent with switching and contesting the three to start the game and in the third Quarter, they were letting threes rain down on them like anvils. KAT and G are caught in no man’s land instead of defending out by the arc and forcing Lilliard and McCollum and Aminu to beat them with twos. Wiggins starts the game on fire and then gets pulled for a long stretch, comes back and starts shooting like his old inefficient self. It baffles me, that when we guard the other team off the three, we win. When we get to the FT line, we win. When we pass the ball and create open shots, we win. Why is that so hard to do for an entire game? Once again, if they play like they did in the third against G State, we will get embarrassed on national TV.

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