Trail Blazers-Timberwolves Preview

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.