Nearly a month went by before the Portland Trail Blazers finally had to deal with a loss. The Minnesota Timberwolves, meanwhile, are all too familiar with the feeling of defeat.
After having a 13-game winning streak end, the Trail Blazers look to bounce back in a matchup with the league-worst Timberwolves on Wednesday night.
Portland (18-13) finished 13-2 in December after losing 111-101 to Utah on Monday night. It was the Blazers' first loss since Dec. 2 against San Antonio, ending their longest win streak since a 16-game run in 1990-91 and the NBA's longest this season.
"It was a great month for us. We lost the first game of the month and the last game of the month. Any time you do that, I think that's a sign of a young team maturing," said Portland guard Brandon Roy, who had 17 points Monday after averaging 22.8 during the win streak.
"You can't win all of them. It's an NBA season."
The Blazers' winning streak, which included a 109-98 victory over Minnesota (4-26) on Friday night, has put them in contention in the Western Conference after starting 5-12. Portland fell one-half game behind first-place Denver in the Northwest Division with Monday's loss, which coach Nate McMillan missed to attend a family funeral.
"I told these guys, if they go about their lives and work the way they've done since August until now, they're going to have a lot of good months and they're going to have a lot of good streaks," said assistant coach Dean Demopoulos, who took over for McMillan.
The Blazers, though, are in the middle of a three-game stretch on the road, where they have been vulnerable all season. Only three of Portland's victories during the 13-game run came away from the Rose Garden, and the team has lost all 10 of its other road games this season.
Poor defense has plagued Portland on the road, where it has allowed 101.6 points per game. On Monday, the Blazers were outscored in the paint 62-22, though they did score 100 points in a road game for just the third time.
LaMarcus Aldridge scored a career-high 36 points versus the Jazz. The second-year forward had a strong game against the Wolves on Friday, finishing with 21 points and eight rebounds.
Aldridge will likely spend some time matched up in the paint with Minnesota's Al Jefferson, who is averaging 27.5 points and 18.5 rebounds in his last two games against Portland. Jefferson had 23 points and 15 boards against the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday night, but the Wolves lost 91-82 for their fifth straight defeat.
After trading Kevin Garnett to Boston in the offseason, Minnesota is off to the worst start in the franchise's 19-year history. The Wolves would have to win 12 of their final 52 games to avoid tying their worst record, which was 15-67 in 1991-92.
Minnesota coach Randy Wittman has been particularly upset with the play of guards Rashad McCants, Sebastian Telfair and Marko Jaric in the fourth quarter. The Wolves were outscored 32-12 in the fourth on Monday.
"I have to find some guards to lead us down the stretch," said Wittman, whose team has been without guard Randy Foye (knee) all season. "It's the same thing every game."
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