The Portland Trail Blazers have turned around their fortunes on the road and seek their fourth straight win to close out a long road trip when they visit the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday. After opening the five-game trip with a loss at Golden State, the Blazers turned it up on the defensive end to defeat three straight Eastern Conference opponents.
“Even though it wasn’t in a sexy way on the offensive end, in a sense, I think defensively we stuck in there and did the right things to make some plays,” guard Evan Turner told the media after Saturday’s 93-91 victory in Charlotte. While Portland is making the most of a five-game road trip, the Timberwolves are just 2-2 on a five-game homestand that has already featured three of the four teams at the bottom of the Western Conference. One of those squads - Phoenix - trailed by as many as 15 points before rallying for a 108-106 triumph Saturday in Minneapolis. Karl-Anthony Towns recorded his NBA-leading 24th double-double with 28 points and 11 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who lost at home against a conference opponent for the first time in nine games.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN Northwest (Portland), FSN North (Minnesota)
ABOUT THE TRAIL BLAZERS (16-13): Guard CJ McCollum scored a game-high 25 points at Charlotte and is averaging 24.4 while shooting 52.3 percent over a five-game stretch. Running mate Damian Lillard was held to 18 points and is averaging 19 - nearly seven below his season average - in the last three games while going 19-for-49 from the floor, although he had 11 assists Saturday. Portland hosts San Antonio on Wednesday as it tries to snap a four-game home losing streak.
ABOUT THE TIMBERWOLVES (17-13): Saturday’s loss at home to a sub-.500 team without its leading scorer was another example that Minnesota - while talented - has some work to do to learn how to win consistently. “I didn’t like it from the jump,” forward Taj Gibson told the media. “I felt like we were getting loose from the bench. It just didn’t feel right. We always do that. We get a good lead, get up 20, maybe 15 and start feeling good, and we just have a letdown.” Gibson also had a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds but the Timberwolves were dominated on the glass by a 52-31 margin.
1. Portland entered Sunday ranked fourth in the NBA in opponents’ field-goal percentage (44.2), while Minnesota was 29th (48.0).
2. Timberwolves PG Tyus Jones has made all six of his shot attempts over the last three games and is 4-for-4 from long range over a five-game span.
3. McCollum averaged 27.5 points on 56.3 percent shooting as Portland took three of four meetings last season.
PREDICTION: Timberwolves 111, Trail Blazers 107