The Minnesota Timberwolves may need to make some changes of their own if they plan on beating Portland.
The Blazers look for their ninth consecutive win over Minnesota on Sunday night at the Rose Garden, while the Timberwolves try to regroup after a dreadful showing in their fifth straight defeat.
Portland (3-3) had averaged 94.2 points its first five games, so coach Nate McMillan decided to kick-start his team’s stagnant offense by inserting Miller alongside Brandon Roy(notes) and Steve Blake(notes) while moving Martell Webster(notes) to the bench.
Miller wasn’t spectacular Friday against San Antonio - he shot 2 of 9 - but finished with 10 points, six rebounds and four assists, and McMillan was thrilled with the three-guard offense. Roy scored a game-high 24 points, Blake added 15 and the ball movement improved in a 96-84 win over the Spurs.
“I’m happy to see the movement. That felt more like a flow, more like a rhythm on both ends of the floor,” McMillan said. “(Andre) got everybody involved, a lot of communications, and just looked in sync even though that team hasn’t played a lot together. We got the ball movement.”
The change, which Roy called “something we needed,” is expected to stick - at least for now.
“I looked at the schedule,” McMillan said. “With the schedule the next week or two I am going to stay with it and look at it. It was a good unit tonight.”
Oden has only faced the Timberwolves (1-5) once since being selected with the No. 1 pick in the 2007 NBA draft, but Roy has made sure his absence hasn’t made a difference. The two-time All-Star, originally selected by Minnesota with the sixth pick in the 2006 draft before being swapped for Randy Foye(notes), has averaged 24.5 points and 6.5 assists in leading Portland to two straight four-game season sweeps against the Timberwolves.
Minnesota could certainly use another scorer right now. First-year coach Kurt Rambis’ team has averaged a Western Conference-low 91.0 points, and was even worse Friday in an ugly 87-72 home loss to Milwaukee.
“We said it in the beginning - this is going to be a process, this is going to take time, and they have to learn how to play together and how to do the right things in order to get wins,” Rambis told the Timberwolves’ official Web site.
While it was expected that Minnesota’s young backcourt of Jonny Flynn(notes) and Corey Brewer(notes) would experience some growing pains, Al Jefferson(notes) figured to give them an outstanding post threat.
Jefferson, though, hasn’t looked comfortable inside during his first six games back after tearing his ACL last February. He’s averaged 15.3 points on 39.6 percent shooting, and has yet to record more than eight rebounds in a game after averaging at least 11.0 the past three seasons.
Jefferson averaged 26.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in two games against Portland last season before the injury.
Minnesota has lost seven in a row at Portland, though five of those defeats have come by four points or fewer.