Wolves reverse course, beat Portland 112-96
Jeff Teague wasnt sure if he should shoot his shot halfway through the fourth quarter on Friday. After several passes, the ball swung to him at the top of the key and he hesitated as he eyed the hoop. He was wide open and no defenders were running near him, so Teague decided, What the heck, and put up the three-pointer. It fell through the hoop, sending the Wolves ahead by 24 and Target Center into party mode early on Friday.
On a night when the Wolves honored Minnesotas favorite son Prince with purple jerseys and the king of the franchise, Kevin Garnett, set aside his feud with owner Glen Taylor to take in the game, the Wolves played like basketball royalty in a sound 112-96 thrashing of Portland on Friday. This was the same Trail Blazers team they looked lifeless against in a 30-point defeat in Portland. What a difference a week and a trade can make. The Wolves improved to 3-0 since the trade with the 76ers for Jimmy Butler became official. The newcomers Robert Covington and Dario Saric had a hand in the victory but the Wolves played a complete game, with six players reaching double figured led by Andrew Wiggins with 23 while Derrick Rose added 17. The defense was the story of the game, however, holding the proficient Blazers to 42 percent shooting and under 100 points for the first time this season.
On Prince night at Target Center, the loudest ovation before the game wasnt related to the Purple One. Instead, it was reserved for Garnett, the franchise cornerstone who donned one of the teams Prince-inspired jerseys and had a seat under one of the baskets. Garnett returned to Target Center despite his strained relationship with Taylor, who also owns the Star Tribune.
Garnett and Taylor have had an uneasy relationship and after Garnetts second stint with the Wolves, he and Taylor fell out over Garnetts role in the organization following the death of former coach Flip Saunders. Garnett has said hed still like the have a role at some point with the Wolves, potentially as a member of the ownership. Garnett declined an interview request Friday, only saying, We just chilling tonight when approached at halftime.
That good energy Garnetts return created for the crowd carried over onto the court as the Wolves jumped out to an early lead.
Covington scored a team-high 11 points in the first half and was active on the defensive end of the floor. Covingtons main job was to help limit the Blazers sharpshooting guards Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. The pair combined to shoot just 5 for 15 in the first half after which the Wolves led 55-43.
One of the main questions with Derrick Rose back in the lineup was how would Thibodeau juggle his rotations. Anthony Tolliver was the victim Wednesday and joining him on the pine Friday was fan-favorite rookie Josh Okogie, whose energy was bottled on the bench until mop-up time. Instead, Thibodeau went heavy with Rose while still giving Tyus Jones some minutes at the point.
Through the second quarter, the Wolves kept the Blazers at arms length. They held them to just 43 percent shooting, including 3 of 13 from 3-point range.
There were some uneasy moments for the Wolves in this third quarter as Covington picked up his fourth foul and Portland got within six with 7:21 remaining in the quarter. But with Covington out and Rose in, the Wolves went on another run as they worked the ball inside and scored 16 of their 21 remaining points in the quarter via the paint. They led 83-67 headed into the fourth, when they began partying like it was 1999.