Monday’s game between the Timberwolves and Portland at Target Center was supposed to happen March 6, only to be postponed because of condensation on the court.
Turns out it was worth the wait for the Wolves.
Rebounding well from a difficult loss, the Wolves fought back from a 12-point third-quarter deficit and outlasted the Trail Blazers 110-109 when Damian Lillard’s final shot over an outstretched Ricky Rubio hit the rim and bounced off.
The victory — which ended Portland’s six-game winning streak — was impressive. It was a rather gutty response to Saturday’s loss to Sacramento, which ended the Wolves’ chances to make the playoffs.
“We’re not going to quit,” said Rubio, who had 11 points and 16 assists, his fourth consecutive double-double. “We have six more games, and we’ll keep playing hard.”
Portland came in red hot and a little banged up. Playing without center Jusuf Nurkic, the Trail Blazers used a small lineup, one that gave the Wolves fits in the first half.
But Wolves center Karl-Anthony Towns was able to take advantage down the stretch, scoring 14 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter, winning a 12-minute duel with Lillard, who scored 12 of his 25 points in the same stretch. Andrew Wiggins added 29 points for the Wolves.
But more than anything else, it was defense that produced this victory, coming two days after the Kings got nearly any shot they wanted.
“I think we just played harder,” Towns said. “Our pride kicked in. We decided as a team we wanted to play harder and we wanted to come out with a win. So we did just that. We had to scratch this out.”
After shooting 54.5 percent while taking a 57-49 halftime lead, the Blazers shot just 38.1 percent in the second half, hitting only six of 20 second-half three-pointers.
With the Wolves down 12 only two minutes into the second half, Brandon Rush (12 points) had seven points during an 11-0 run. The Blazers pushed it back to six, but Wiggins had six points in a 15-6 run, and the Wolves ended the quarter ahead by three.
And, in a fourth quarter that featured six lead changes and two ties, the Wolves outlasted a Portland team that desperately needed the victory, with the winning bucket being Towns’ slam dunk off a nice feed from Gorgui Dieng with 32.1 seconds left.
But this wasn’t a case of the Wolves playing the spoiler against the Blazers (38-39), who are clinging to the Western Conference’s final playoff spot.
The dynamic Portland backcourt of Lillard and C.J. McCollum combined for 42 points. Al-Farouq Aminu had 20, including a putback of a missed layup with 30.1 seconds left that made it a one-point game. Maurice Harkless had 17 points.
“I don’t think about spoilers. I think we’re building something,” Towns said.
Said Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau: “This isn’t about taking days off, relaxing and having a good time. This is about we didn’t make the playoffs. So if we want to end that, we’ve got to put the work into it.”
It doesn’t get any easier. After this makeup game, the Wolves had to rush to a charter taking them to California for Tuesday’s game at Golden State.
“A big test,” Thibodeau said. “The way the schedule goes, you deal with it. The games keep coming. But there is a lot for us to play for.”
• Following Tuesday’s game, Towns had 1,890 points and 918 rebounds this season. That means he needs 110 points and 82 rebounds over the final six games to become the youngest player in NBA history to total 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in a season. In league history, only 14 players have done it, most recently San Antonio’s Tim Duncan in 2001-02. Towns needs to average 18.3 points and 13.7 rebounds.
• Thibodeau was thrilled by the news that Patrick Ewing will be the new Georgetown coach. Thibodeau coached the Hall of Fame center as an assistant with the New York Knicks. “How great is that?” Thibodeau said. “I’m so happy for him. The way he paid his dues, you don’t often see a player of his stature do what he did. He’s very deserving. He’ll do an unbelievable job.”