Last night, I watched the Portland Trail Blazers just absolutely dismantle the Minnesota TImberwolves, back to front, to a final score of 111-81. The Blazers were playing a home back to back, coming off a disappointing and kind of weird loss to the Lakers, and really needed a win to avoid getting caught in a rut.
I was happy with the night, mostly. I like the Blazers, I like it when they win. I’m a fan, even if I feel really doofy about it. Jusuf Nurkic, my favorite player on the team, had a big night. The crowd even semi-ironically chanted Meyers Leonard’s name in the garbage time fourth quarter.
It should have been sweeter than candy. But there was something in this game that bummed me out. Nurk had this big game almost entirely at the expense of Karl-Anthony Towns, who was out there vibrating with a truly pathetic energy, while his team followed suit. It was especially bumming considering everything that’s going on with him and Minnesota in general right now.
On the Blazers second offensive play of the game, Nurk just stripped right past Towns’s lazy box out, and tipped the ball right in for an easy bucket. Later, Nurk got the ball above the three point line, beat Tyrus Jones straight off the dribble, blew right the hell through Towns’s weak swipe at the ball, and rose up and finger rolled the ball into the hoop for another easy two points. The Wolves’ lackadaisical collective effort turned this massive, hefty beast boy into Kevin Durant for, like, two seconds. This all happened in the first four minutes of the game.
Nurk continued to roast Towns, over and over. He shot a loopy post up right over him, boxed him out for a rebound, missed the put back, got it back AGAIN, dribbled, pump faked Towns in the air, and laid it in, right over him. It was all so effortless.
The rest of the Wolves weren't any better. The Blazers stuffed three consecutive 30-point quarters in their collective face, all while managing to shoot a measly 26 percent from three. They just went to and around the rim, over and over, getting buckets and drawing fouls against a team that was clearly half there all night.
It should go without saying that there is a cloud over these dudes, and it’s a 29-year-old aggrieved star player. Jimmy Butler, the Wolves best player, sat out for the second straight game, part of his one man war against the Wolves to force the team to trade him because he absolutely fucking hates playing there and is doing everything in his power to go somewhere he can get a super-max deal without playing even one more minute with Towns. His agent is leaking shit left and right, Butler is giving jackass interviews to anyone who will wave a microphone in his face, and he is sinking shots and yelling “you fucking need me” at his general manager.
This is all to say, that we don’t have a really good grip on the truths of this situation, except for one: Jimmy Butler is...let's call it prickly. And yes, Towns has been disappointing, and Wiggins is probably hauling around the worst contract in the NBA, but if Butler was walking around with the world’s worst case of Kobe poisoning, he could probably, I don’t know, teach these dudes how to be better professional basketball players?
And you want to believe a dude like that can’t dominate the will of a person while he’s sitting in the fucking locker room, not playing so he can irritate his team into trading him just because he thinks everyone plays too much Fortnite or whatever. You want to believe a dude standing in front of reporters and blowing his own fucking trumpet while the world he’s paid to help build is crumbling around him is going to be proven wrong, that the people he is shitting on night after night will stand up and yell fuck you buddy, I don’t need you, I have everything I need deep in myself. But here Towns is, getting absolutely LIT UP by Jusuf Nurkic, a fine player but a dude whose contributions are best described as “defensively oriented,” and looking just completely dead and tired and disengaged doing it. Less than ten games into the season, and big buddy Kentucky is glassy eyed staring at the finish line while his team just gets fucking pummeled.
After the game, Lamar Hurd, the Blazers’ wonderful in-booth color man, said that Portland broke the Wolves’ spirit last night. In garbage time, Meyers Leonard, MEYERS LEONARD, dunked on someone and taunted them and GOT A TECH! Anyone walking around, living by any sort of honor code, would be going Chris Paul on that dude, seeking to pluck his eye out, if they were subjected to that kind of disgrace at the hands of MEYERS LEONARD. But that's not what happened.
The fact of the matter is, the second that ball tipped, Towns and those dudes were dead, broken, drifting. The Blazers didn’t need to do shit. Butler beat them weeks ago. The only path to victory is to get up and punch their malaise in the fucking nose. Christ, I hope they take it, because otherwise the next two years are going to be depressing as shit.