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Shootaround Notes: Momentum Palpable in Minnesota

by Cody Sharrett

Just 1.5 games back of the eighth seed in the Western Conference and winners in three of five games since the All-Star break, there's cause for a little optimism as the Portland Trail Blazers begin a two games, two nights road trip at Minnesota on Monday night. Portland is riding back-to-back wins over Oklahoma City and Brooklyn, and close losses on the road to Toronto and Detroit have Terry Stotts' team believing some momentum may be finally swinging its way this season.

"I think we're headed in the right direction," guard CJ McCollum said Monday morning. "Even some of the losses we've had have been close games to where we played well, we just didn't play well enough to win. We've just gotta take advantage of these next couple games and get a win streak going."

"Even the games we didn't win, I felt good about them," point guard Damian Lillard echoed at Monday's shootaround. "This could easily be five [wins] in a row, but it's not. We've just gotta continue to grow, continue to play together and keep pushing toward that spot."

The Trail Blazers won their only meeting thus far with the Timberwolves this season, a 95-89 New Year's Day victory at the Target Center in Minneaopolis to start 2017 without an injured Lillard. McCollum scored a career-high 43 points on 16-of-25 shooting, including a 3-of-6 mark from deep, in the win. The fourth-year guard out of Lehigh is hoping to repeat his success this time around in the Twin Cities.

"That was so long ago," McCollum attempted to recall his performance. "I just made shots. I stayed aggressive in the pick-and-roll and tried to play with pace. Made shots, got to the free-throw line a little bit and hit a few threes."

Monday's game tips at 5pm Pacific from the Target Center in downtown Minneapolis. Following the matchup, the Blazers will fly to Oklahoma City to wrap up the road trip versus the Thunder on Tuesday evening.