Lillard scores 39 as Blazers rout Timberwolves 135-117
By ANNE M. PETERSON
PORTLAND. Ore. (AP) Damian Lillard had 39 points, including seven 3-pointers, and the Portland Trail Blazers handed the Minnesota Timberwolves their sixth straight loss with a 135-117 victory Thursday night.
CJ McCollum added 20 points for the Blazers, who led by 33 in the second half. Jusuf Nurkic had 17 points and seven rebounds before Portland rested its starters in the fourth quarter.
D'Angelo Russell and Anthony Edwards each scored 26 points for the Timberwolves (2-6), who continue to struggle without Karl-Anthony Towns as he recovers from a dislocated left wrist. He's missed six games, coinciding with Minnesota's losing streak.
Lillard, who also had seven rebounds and seven assists while playing less than 30 minutes, said he made a point of coming out strong.
"I need to be more aggressive, be in attack mode, just trying to lift the level of urgency from the start," Lillard said.
The Timberwolves had a narrow 29-28 edge after the opening quarter, paced by Russell with 11 points.
Portland (4-4) pulled in front in the second, taking a 46-36 lead on Gary Trent Jr.'s 3-pointer. Robert Covington's 3, which capped a 15-0 run, extended the lead to 54-36 as Minnesota's offense stalled.
After leading 75-56 at the break, the Blazers pushed their advantage to 95-65 in the third quarter on Lillard's 3-pointer from 33 feet out.
Edwards dunked to get Minnesota to 116-100 with just over six minutes left.
"Losses when they stack up, it hurts," Minnesota coach Ryan Saunders said. "We're all competitors here. You've got to fight the natural instinct to let go of the rope when things get tough. You grab onto somebody next to you when things get tough."
Saunders said help might be on the way soon because Towns has been making progress. "Once we get back to Minnesota, we'll evaluate more, and get him around the team and see where he is at that point," Saunders said.
Until their big man does return, Malik Beasley said the Timberwolves need to weather this slump.
"We've got to help each other. We've got to trust each other. That's the main thing. We've got to have each other's back. I don't think we're doing that right now. We've got to come together," he said.
Timberwolves: Minnesota was also without Josh Okogie, who has missed five games with a strained left hamstring. ... Saunders said the Timberwolves discussed the mob of President Donald Trump supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. "It was disgusting to watch in so many ways and it shows just how far we have to come as a country when it comes to coming together," he said.
Trail Blazers: Rodney Hood returned after missing two games with a quad strain. ... The Blazers have made 12 or more 3s in every game this season. ... McCollum had four 3s before heading to the bench.
Lillard was asked his reaction to the events that unfolded Wednesday in Washington, D.C.
"Guys around the league have spoken about it, talk about how we pretty much live in two different Americas," Lillard said. "Being a Black man, I know what that situation would have been if people of color decided to take that kind of route. I know it wouldn't look the way it looked."
PRAISE FOR DAME
"Whatever we did, we didn't do it good enough because he really got going tonight," Saunders said. "There's a reason why Damian Lillard is an MVP-caliber basketball player. If you're not in tune with all the details on how to cover him, he'll make it really tough on you."
The Timberwolves host the first of two straight games against San Antonio on Saturday.
The Trail Blazers visit Sacramento on Saturday.
More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports
Updated January 8, 2021