Player grades from Timberwolves’ win over Trail Blazers

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Anthony Edwards scores on the Portland Trail Blazers. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Minnesota Timberwolves forward Anthony Edwards scores on the Portland Trail Blazers. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports /

The Minnesota Timberwolves rode a 40-point performance to defeat the Portland Trail Blazers on the road despite an otherwise sloppy team performance.

Timberwolves beat Trail Blazers behind Anthony Edwards’ 40 points

The Timberwolves came into Portland knowing that a win was of high importance, given a road back-to-back against the Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns later this week and a home matchup against the Utah Jazz this weekend.

Yet they came out with a sloppy opening two-and-a-half quarters against an inferior Portland Trail Blazers team that was missing Damian Lillard. The Wolves were turnover-happy and completely lackadaisical defensively, allowing the home team to launch open 3-pointers with very little resistance.

Still, the Wolves’ offense was effective enough, largely by getting to the free-throw line with regularity, to stick around. Minnesota was only trailing by eight points at halftime.

Trailing by nine late in the third quarter, the Wolves suddenly came to life, going on an extended run to take a two-point lead into the fourth quarter. Jarred Vanderbilt’s activity, plus the Big Three’s offensive ability collectively keyed the run.

In the fourth quarter, the Wolves were able to maintain a lead of their own that grew to nine points with under five minutes to play. But a 10-1 run from Portland amid shoddy defense and stagnant offense from the Wolves tied the game up with just over 10 seconds to play.

Russell drove left, beating Anfernee Simons to the rim and forcing a goaltend, giving the Wolves a two-point lead with 2.9 seconds to play. On the ensuing offensive possession, Portland ran Simons around a Jusuf Nurkic screen for a catch-and-shoot opportunity at a would-be game-winner from beyond the arc, but the length of Jaden McDaniels bothered Simons enough that the shot clanged harmlessly off the rim.

Player grades from Timberwolves’ win over Trail Blazers

Let’s take a look at a few player grades from the Wolves win over the Trail Blazers.

Anthony Edwards: A

40 points (14-27 FG, 5-13 3P, 7-11 FT), 9 rebounds, 3 steals, 3 blocks

Edwards was phenomenal in virtually every aspect of the game. Offensively, he scored at the rim in both the half-court and in transition, eventually mixing in a steady diet of step-back and catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts.

Edwards was also active on the glass and on the defensive end of the floor, using his anticipation and length to both the Blazers’ backcourt and create havoc. This was one of the best all-around games of Edwards’ career to this point.

Karl-Anthony Towns: A-

17 points (4-7 FG, 3-4 3P, 6-6 FT), 17 rebounds, 4 blocks, 2 assists

Towns had a somewhat under-the-radar performance in this one. It’s hard to argue against 17 points on seven shot attempts from the field, after all.

The Blazers focused their entire defensive gameplan around slowing down Towns. It worked early, as Towns had just three points at halftime for the second consecutive game. But the problem for Portland was that Towns was more than content to take exactly what they were giving him.

In this game, that was simply the ability to make the right pass to open teammates, as the Blazers played a ton of zone in this game and were continually collapsing on Towns near the free throw line. Towns made the proper decisions, and if not for teammates missing shots, he would have been much closer to a potential triple-double in this game.

Towns’ work on the glass was extremely important, too. The Wolves still ended up a -1 on the boards, and it would have been a lot uglier if it wasn’t for the activity of their superstar big man.

Jarred Vanderbilt: A

13 points (5-7 FG, 3-5 FT), 13 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, one block

This was a classic Jarred Vanderbilt game: unbelievable defensive activity, efficient offense, and strong work on the glass.

While Vanderbilt only had two steals and a block, he was an absolute nightmare for the Blazers when they were on offense, flying around the court and providing ball pressure out to mid-court on frequent occasions. Offensively, Vanderbilt played an important role roaming the baseline against the Blazers’ zone defense, and finished the game shooting 5-of-7 with six assists and only two turnovers.

Additionally, Vando somehow played 36 minutes and didn’t commit a single foul. Amazing.

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The Wolves head down the coast to take on the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night at 9 p.m. CT in a nationally-televised game on TNT.