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18-19

Timberwolves-Trail Blazers Preview

AP - Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers have stumbled recently and are in danger of falling below .500 for the first time this season. A visit from the Minnesota Timberwolves could help.

The Trail Blazers will try to win their 17th straight over the Timberwolves on Saturday night.

Portland has gone more than a month since winning back-to-back games and has lost eight of 12, including its last two.

While the Blazers (18-18) are one of the NBA's better defensive teams, giving up 93.8 points per game to rank fifth in the Western Conference, they've surrendered an average of 102.8 in their last four.

They are coming off a 107-93 loss to Miami on Thursday in which they allowed 60 points in the first half. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 20, but just eight after the first quarter as the Heat took an 18-point lead into the half.

With consecutive losses coming out of the All-Star break, the Blazers have dropped into ninth place in the West.

"You're in the second half of the season so every game is important," coach Nate McMillan said. "Any loss in this short season hurts."

Portland has lost five of seven at the Rose Garden after winning 11 of its first 12 there. Last season, it went 30-11 and never lost more than two consecutive games at home.

McMillan's team is surely looking to Aldridge to help snap out of the funk. The All-Star big man has had little trouble stepping up against the Timberwolves lately, averaging 28.6 points on 57.6 percent shooting with 9.0 rebounds in his last five games against them.

Portland has swept each of the last four season series from Minnesota, which has dropped 11 straight at the Rose Garden. The Timberwolves haven't won in Portland since Dec. 7, 2005.

While Minnesota (18-19) has shown dramatic improvement this season - already surpassing its win total from 2010-11 - it has lost its last two on this road trip, including a 104-95 defeat at Phoenix on Thursday.

Kevin Love, who missed the previous night's loss to the Lakers with flu-like symptoms, had 23 points and 10 rebounds while Ricky Rubio added 13 points but only two assists - his second-fewest this season.

It was the third game in three nights for the Timberwolves, who shot below 40.0 percent for a second straight contest. They shot 29.5 percent in the second half against the Suns, hitting five field goals in the fourth quarter.

"It just got out of control and the wheels came off," Love said. "Third game in three nights for all these guys and for me being sick, I think we had tired legs down the stretch and it caught up to us."

Love shot 8 of 25 in the loss, hitting 1 of 6 in the fourth quarter. He's shooting 29.9 percent in his last five games.

He's also been a bit shaky when playing in Oregon, where he grew up and starred during high school. In four career games at Portland, Love is averaging just 12.3 points - 4.0 below his career mark - while shooting 36.5 percent.

These teams will face each other again Wednesday in Minnesota.

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