Having gone more than a month without a road win, the Minnesota Timberwolves visit the last city where they got one as they try to complete a season series sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers for the first time.
Even the coaching change from Flip Saunders to Kevin McHale two weeks ago hasn’t turned around Minnesota’s road woes.
McHale won two of his first three contests—all at home—after taking over, but has since lost road games to the Los Angeles Clippers and Seattle.
The Timberwovles have dropped 13 of 16 on the road, including five straight since a 92-83 win at Portland on Jan. 22. They’ve averaged 17.8 turnovers during that road losing streak.
“The only thing you can do is keep on working. We have to get better in certain areas,” McHale said. “We can’t have the turnovers we are having. Those are just killers.”
Nineteen of them doomed the Blazers in the most recent meeting as they fell to 0-3 against Minnesota this season.
Since entering the league in 1989-90, the Timberwolves have not swept the Blazers and have won the season series just twice. Portland has swept Minnesota six times.
Neither team enters this matchup playing well.
Portland has lost five of seven, with the wins coming by a combined four points against the two worst teams in the Eastern Conference—Charlotte and Atlanta.
However, the Blazers got a boost from Zach Randolph on Friday as he had 31 points, including the go-ahead basket with 9 seconds left, and 12 rebounds in a 102-101 win over Atlanta. It was an encouraging performance for the Blazers’ top scorer and rebounder, who missed the last two games before the All-Star break with a knee injury that also sidelined him for six games last month.
“I’m just playing loose,” Randolph said. “I feel good out there and I am trying to get back to my old self. I’m not 100 percent, but I am close.”
With Randolph back—he missed last month’s two matchups with Minnesota— Portland should have all of its top big men available.
The Timberwolves don’t.
Forward Eddie Griffin, second on the team with 6.2 rebounds per game while averaging 7.9 points, was placed on the injured list Friday with a broken finger in his left hand. Center Michael Olowokandi’s status is uncertain after he missed Friday’s 98-88 loss to Seattle with the flu, one night after hyperextending his knee in a loss to the Clippers.
“We’re undersized right now,” said Kevin Garnett, who had 31 points and 14 rebounds Friday. “I’m doing whatever I can to give us an advantage.”