Blazers seek strong end to road trip in Minnesota
The Portland Trail Blazers still have much to play for this season. The Minnesota Timberwolves? Not so much.
The Trail Blazers (48-28) come to Minneapolis Monday night to face the Timberwolves in the final stop on a four-game road trip. Portland has won nine of its last 11 contests, but has fallen behind Houston (49-28) and into fourth place in the Western Conference.
The Timberwolves (34-42) are out of the playoff picture and have dropped seven of their last nine outings - though one of the wins was a 131-130 overtime thriller over Golden State on Friday.
The Detroit Pistons went scoreless for more than five minutes to start the game, missed their first 13 shots and their first 16 3-point attempts - and still beat the Blazers 99-90 Saturday night. Portland shot .373 from the field and made only 4 of 21 attempts from 3-point range. The Blazers led 34-31 at halftime in a game that saw the lowest combined halftime total in the NBA this season.
"It was one of those games where not a lot was going right," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "The first quarter was brutal. Neither team really had it going. I'm sure (the Pistons) would say the same thing ... it was tough."
"It was a junked-up game," said Portland point guard Damian Lillard, who finished with 23 points but made only 8 of 25 shots from the field and had two points in the first half. "Most of the game, neither team could make a shot. It wasn't our night on the offensive end.
"Let's just flush this loss in Detroit and move on."
The Blazers come to Minneapolis with a 19-19 record away from home.
"Especially on the road, we can't relax," said Portland center Enes Kanter, who collected 20 points and 15 rebounds against the Pistons. "We need to finish the job."
The Timberwolves don't appear to have quit on the season despite their losing record. They rallied from a 19-point third-quarter deficit to overcome the Warriors. Minnesota trailed 38-20 after one quarter and got to within three points in the fourth quarter in a 118-109 home loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday.
"We've got to build so that we don't give ourselves these holes," interim coach Ryan Saunders said.
"I was concerned coming into the game about a letdown from (the win over Golden State), because that's human nature in a lot of ways. You've got to guard against that."
Forward Andrew Wiggins has continued to produce, scoring 20 points or more in each of the last six games.
"It's not like we're force-feeding him the ball," Saunders said. "He's getting a lot of his scores in the open court in other ways. He's getting it more within the system, within the offense and the flow."
"It's hard to come back on a good team," said Wiggins, who scored 24 points on 9-for-18 shooting against the 76ers. "We did it (against the Warriors), but it was difficult. It makes our chances lower by throwing ourselves in a hole like that, but we fought back. It just didn't go our way at the end."
--Field Level Media
Updated March 31, 2019