Not Very Good
Blazers 90, Wolves 79 Season Record: 4-27 Current Streak: 6L
Here's the good news: On Wednesday night, the Timberwolves out-rebounded the Trailblazers both overall (46-44) and on the offensive glass (15-9), leading to a 20-11 advantage in second-chance points. They also held a dominant 40-20 advantage in the paint. They hit only two fewer free-throws (20-25 vs. 22-27) than their opponents, and, by and large, played decent defense, holding the red-hot Blazers to a 39 percent shooting night.
Big Al, despite a long stretch in the middle of the game where he vanished entirely, had another solid game, scoring 29 points on 24 shots to go along with 16 boards, including eight offensive boards that led to a couple nifty put-back dunks.
Here's the bad: The Wolves could not buy a basket from beyond the paint. Aside from a brief (believe us, it was brief!) two-shot flurry from Gerald Green in the third period, the Wolves turned out one of their worst shooting performances in a season of putrid shooting performances. The Wolves' wingmen shot a combined 15-49, including 3-14 from beyond the arc.
After the game, when asked if the woeful shooting was a matchup thing or a "roster issue," Wittman answered pseudo-diplomatically. "It's not our strength," he said, before going on to talk about how the Blazers, by contrast, are a team loaded with guys who can nail open (and not-so-open) shots.
After showing a fair amount of emotion in a string of recent post-game press conferences, it sounded and felt on Wednesday a little as if Wittman, who insisted he wasn't "making excuses" by citing the team's travel schedule as a possible cause of the flat shooting performance, had thrown in the towel.
It also felt that way when he ended the third and started the fourth periods by putting McCants, Green, Jaric, Walker, and Jefferson on the floor together. It's not clear if this grotesque troika of underperforming shooting guards is one that we will ever see on the floor again in a game anywhere, ever, but it does say "Fuck me, fuck the world, and fuck this fucking game" like little else we've seen this season.
Marko Dark Speaking of Marko, he registered a notably absent effort in Wednesday's game. In 16+ minutes on the court, he posted exactly one assist and one turnover. He didn't even attempt a shot. His most memorable play was driving the lane and planting the ball firmly in the hands of Channing Frye. It resulted in a jump ball, which Marko lost. Jaric's confidence has always been razor thin, and it has pretty clearly been shattered since his return from a gimpy ankle, and, more recently, the flu.
When it comes to undisguised emotions, Jaric is up there with Gerald Green as the most open-feelinged dude on the team. And Gerald sets a high bar. In the locker room after the game, Jaric sat at his locker in the corner.
As the rest of the team dressed and departed, Jaric sat with a towel wrapped around his waist, staring sullenly into space. When we approached to ask how things were hanging, he answered in a small, non-malicious voice.
"Could we just skip it tonight, please?"
Sure, we said, no problem.
"I just have no idea what to say," he explained.
Locker Room Notes On another bitter note, we also had occasion to speak with Brandon Roy after the game. Called "The third best player in the league" last week by Magic Johnson, he was friendly, well-spoken, and eager to get to the team bus. We asked if it felt weird coming to Minneapolis—the city he was drafted into before being traded minutes later for Randy Foye and cash considerations.
“A little. Minneapolis is a nice city. It’s a little strange walking around and thinking, what if my family lived here?”
However, he pointed out with evident pride (and probably a fair bit of relief), “I’m a Trailblazer now.”
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