Trail Blazers Vs. Timberwolves Preview
December 18th, 2013
By NICOLINO DIBENEDETTO
Damian Lillard's clutch shooting is the latest reason why the Portland Trail Blazers own the best record in the NBA.
A meeting with the Minnesota Timberwolves may not require such heroics.
Lillard and the Trail Blazers hope to make things a lot easier on themselves Wednesday night when they try to continue their dominance of the Timberwolves.
Portland (22-4) is on the cusp of sweeping a four-game road trip with a sixth straight win after Lillard hit a go-ahead 3 with 0.4 seconds left in Tuesday's 119-116 victory at Cleveland. That came two days after the 2013 NBA Rookie of the Year connected on a fadeaway jumper as time expired to cinch a 111-109 overtime win at Detroit.
Lillard's performances went well beyond the clutch shooting, totaling 59 points over the last two games. That includes a season-high 36 points with 10 assists and eight rebounds against the Cavaliers, while his decisive 3 was his career-best eighth of the contest.
"There is no explaining it," coach Terry Stotts said. "Damian had it going, so we ran it through him."
That may only continue since Lillard averaged 23.3 points on 54.5 percent from the floor - 9 for 20 from beyond the arc - while helping the Trail Blazers win all four meetings with Minnesota (12-13) last season.
Portland has dominated the Timberwolves, winning 21 of the past 23 matchups - 10 of 11 at Minnesota. The Blazers have won five straight overall in the series, averaging 106.6 points.LaMarcus Aldridge has been limited to 19.0 points - more than four below his season average - and 8.8 rebounds during that run. He scored 17 in a 109-94 home win March 2.
The forward, though, seems poised for an increase in production since he's averaging 25.6 points and 14.8 boards during Portland's five-game overall win streak.
Minnesota is looking to bounce back from Monday's 101-97 loss at Boston, and showing improvement from the field would certainly help. The Timberwolves shot 37.8 percent from the floor - 8 for 29 from long range - against the Celtics.
Kevin Love is averaging 33.0 points over the past three games, but he was partly responsible for the latest struggles. He made 9 of 26 field goals while missing 9 of 11 from behind the arc to finish with 27 points and 14 rebounds Monday.
"I shot the ball good, it just didn't go in," Love said. "It was that way for all of our team. ... We shot the ball pretty bad the whole game. We beat that team the majority of the time we play them."
Love, who will likely find himself matched up with Aldridge, averages 30.3 points while sinking 9 of 21 from 3-point range over his last four meetings with the Blazers. However, he missed the past three due to a broken hand.
Corey Brewer is averaging 12.9 points, but just 7.3 over the past three games. He had a season-low four points while going 1 for 8 from the floor in Boston.