MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The game between the Portland Trail Blazers and Minnesota Timberwolves scheduled for Monday night was done in by something no one could have seen coming: warm weather in the Twin Cities in early March.
The NBA postponed the game due to a slippery court caused by condensation from an ice sheet underneath it and outside humidity on a day in which temperatures reached the mid-60s.
"I'd like to apologize to our fans and certainly to the Trail Blazers," Timberwolves president and coach Tom Thibodeau said shortly after the game was postponed. "Obviously the safety of the players has to come first. It's unfortunate, but it's the right thing to do."
It was the second time this season that a game had to be postponed because of a slippery court. The game between the Kings and 76ers in Philadelphia was postponed on Nov. 30. A makeup date will be announced in the coming days.
The ice sheet was recently laid under the court to accommodate a Disney On Ice production last weekend and the upcoming National Collegiate Hockey Conference tournament. The NCHC sent a tongue-in-cheek tweet to the Timberwolves that read "Sorry guys!" and included a gif of Steve Urkel's famous "Did I do that?" line from the television show "Family Matters."
Players discovered the slick conditions as they came out to warm up a few hours before the tip time. Several tried to go through their pregame routines to get ready for an important game between two teams trying to climb into the Western Conference playoffs, but all players eventually were told to return to the locker room while officials assessed the situation.
"On a slippery court?" Wolves point guard Kris Dunn said when asked about playing in the game. "That's like playing tennis in the rain. It's just not happening. It just won't happen."
Blazers forward Meyers Leonard called the conditions "slicker than snot."
The Blazers came into the game just 1½ games behind Denver for the eighth seed in the West, while the Wolves were only three games back in the jam-packed race. It was supposed to be the first of three more meetings between the two teams down the stretch.
"There's added incentive for both teams," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. "Them and Dallas and Denver and us, Sacramento, New Orleans, all these games when you play each other, both teams know the significance of them."
Maintenance workers used mops to try to dry the court. Target Center officials turned the temperature in the building down as low as possible to try to remove the humidity and cool the arena, and the referee crew headed by Ron Garretson discussed the options with the Wolves and Blazers.
"I'm glad Ronnie Garretson was here," Thibodeau said. "He's a great referee, but he's also a great decision maker. He's been with the league a long time and the safety has to come first."
Both teams worked out on Monday morning and reported no concerns about the court. But temperatures hovered in the mid-60s during the day, and the humidity outside came into the arena and started to create condensation by mid-afternoon.
"When it's slippery, you're always concerned," Thibodeau said. "When a player goes down, that's hard to live with. So you don't want to put players in that position."
Fans were let into the building long before the game was postponed, and there were audible boos in the arena when it was announced that the game would not be played. Anyone with a ticket would be reissued another one for the makeup game.
Players quickly filed out of the building without offering comment, and a wry grin crossed Thibodeau's face when he was asked his plans for the rest of the evening.
"I suggested practice over at the practice facility and that didn't go over too good," he said with a chuckle. "There's plenty for us to work on. It'll be good for us to have a good practice tomorrow."