-----Karl-Anthony Towns scores 34 points and 12 rebounds as the Minnesota Timberwolves snap the Portland Trail Blazers six-game winning streak with a 110-109 win Monday night at the Target Center.
Without a viable option at center, the Timberwolves exposed the Blazers lack of size inside by repeatedly feeding the ball to Karl-Anthony Towns who delivered all night. Towns finished with 34 points and 12 rebounds including the 14 points he scored in the fourth quarter.
Meyers Leonard got the start in the middle tonight, but played just 12 minutes missing all four of his shots and grabbed just two rebounds. With Leonard ineffective, Head Coach, Terry Stotts went small playing a combination of Noah Vonleh and Al-Farouq Aminu at center. The Wolves responded by dominating the paint and taking advantage on the glass with a 43-35 rebounding edge.
With Jusuf Nurkic lost for the rest of the regular season with a fractured right leg, the Blazers turned to Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum to provide the offense, but neither could find a rhythm. Lillard and McCollum combined for just 42 points on just 12-for-35 shooting including 3-for-14 form three point range.
Lillard had a chance to win the game with 4.9 seconds remaining. He got the ball after a timeout and attacked Ricky Rubio off the bounce taking a shot from the left elbow but it rolled off the rim.
The Blazers bench came up big tonight scoring 38 points. Aminu scored 20 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and three blocks.
With the loss, the Blazers lead over Denver is just 1.5 games for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Blazers will play their final road game tomorrow night in Utah against the Jazz before returning home to play their final four games of the regular season at the Moda Center.
Chad's Take- This game tonight really showed how important Jusuf Nurkic is to the Trail Blazers. Portland was too reliant on the outside shot, and on defense they were exposed without a true rim protector. In the third quarter, Minnesota scored 37 points with the majority of those coming in the paint or at the free throw line. It was a rough night for the Blazers. McCollum and Lillard combined to shoot just 12-for-35 from the field including 3-for-14 from three point range while their interior defense was ripped apart by Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns scored 34 points and 12 rebounds. The loss won't keep the Blazers out of the playoffs, but it does show if they hope to make noise in the post season they need Nurkic back on the floor.
Highlight- Lillard's hustle takes out the front row: