Rising Blazers welcome in skidding Timberwolves

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The Portland Trail Blazers were one of the NBA’s biggest disappointments when they got off to a 5-12 start.

Portland is now thriving with three straight wins and eight in its past 12 as it enters a Saturday night game against the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves.

Minnesota arrives in the Pacific Northwest with a nine-game losing streak while the Trail Blazers are feeling like a team that is hitting its stride.

“It feels good to feel like we’re ‘supposed’ to win the game,” point guard Damian Lillard told reporters after Portland’s 118-103 win over the Orlando Magic on Friday. “It feels like we’re rolling. It’s not like crazy things are happening for us to win.”

Lillard made seven 3-pointers and scored 36 points against Orlando.

He has scored 30 or more points in three of the past five games and is averaging 27.6 points during that stretch.

Lillard was 8 of 12 from 3-point range in the first contest of the span before hitting a rut and going 7 of 25 over the next three games. However, he was back on the mark strong against Orlando by sinking 7 of 13 attempts.

“I was able to get some opportunities,” Lillard said. “Once you see it go in a few times, even hard ones are good looks.”

Shooting guard CJ McCollum complemented Lillard with 31 points against the Magic. He grabbed eight rebounds and made four 3-pointers.

Forward Carmelo Anthony injured his left knee during the contest, and his status will be firmed up Saturday.

Portland coach Terry Stotts told reporters he didn’t think Anthony would be available against the Timberwolves. Naturally, Anthony said he hopes to play.

“First quarter I just felt it starting to tighten up,” said Anthony, who finished with five points in nine minutes. “Came back in the second quarter, and on (a 3-pointer), I felt it. Then running back, trying to get back on (defense), I felt it after that.”

There also is some mystery involved around the status of Minnesota standout center Karl-Anthony Towns as his club seeks to end a six-game losing streak in Portland.

Towns has missed the past two games with a left knee injury, and coach Ryan Saunders was unsure if the two-time All-Star would give it a go on Saturday.

While the Timberwolves badly miss Towns’ production — he averages 26.5 points and 11.7 rebounds — Saunders wants his big man to pay attention to how his body is feeling.

“As a competitor, you want to play every game, and there’s something wrong with you when you don’t want to play or don’t want more minutes,” Saunders told reporters. “That’s what I always tell players. But you also need to listen to your body. You need to do what’s best for yourself and the group, too, in the long term. Karl, he’s always been durable and played.”

Towns scored a season-best 39 points in the game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Dec. 13 when he sustained the injury.

Without Towns, Minnesota fell 109-100 to the host Denver Nuggets on Friday. The Timberwolves struggled from 3-point range, making just 10 of 42 attempts.

“I mean, they’re good shots,” said small forward Andrew Wiggins, who scored a team-high 19 points despite going 2 of 8 from behind the arc. “We just can’t knock them down. We practice them. We’re hitting the shots at the beginning of the year.

“We’re not shooting too great, but we’ve just got to stay with it and focus, and hopefully next game they’re going to fall.”

–Field Level Media

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