T'wolves look to put first half behind them vs. Trail Blazers

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The Minnesota Timberwolves began the second half of the NBA season the same way they opened the first half -- with a win.

Now they just have to avoid pretty much everything that happened after their initial success the first time around.

The Timberwolves have a chance to create just their second winning streak of the season when they host the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday night in the opener of a two-day, two-game sequence.

Minnesota tipped off the season with wins over Detroit and Utah before losing 29 of their next 34 games to finish the first half with the league's worst record at 7-29.

Saddled with a nine-game losing streak at the All-Star break, the Timberwolves regrouped over the eight-day break and put together arguably their best effort of the season in a 135-105 shellacking of New Orleans on the road Thursday night.

Third-string point guard Jaylen Nowell, who moved up a seat on the bench with second-termer Jordan McLaughlin out of action, bombed in six 3-pointers in seven attempts and 28 points in all in the Timberwolves' shocking performance against a Western Conference playoff contender.

"We just said, 'Hey, get (the ball) up (the court), get us into our stuff, and then just be yourself afterward,' and then he caught fire," Timberwolves coach Chris Finch said of Nowell. "Fun to watch."

Interestingly, Nowell's career-high scoring output came on the same night as fellow University of Washington alum Jaden McDaniels was pouring in a career-high of his own with 20 points for Minnesota.

Throw in 27 points from rookie Anthony Edwards and the Timberwolves needed just 16 from star big man Karl-Anthony Towns to record a season-high in points, seven more than they'd scored in any previous game, 13 more than in any previous regulation contest.

Minnesota was on the other end of an offensive onslaught the only previous time it faced the Trail Blazers this season. Damian Lillard had 39 points that early-January night, when Portland used a 47-point second quarter as a springboard to a 135-117 home win.

One of the stars of the Team LeBron win at the All-Star Game on Sunday, Lillard went for 30 in Portland's second-half opener, a 127-121 home loss to Phoenix on Thursday. The Suns shot 59 percent overall and 54.2 percent on 3-pointers in the high-scoring win.

"We played a solid game," Lillard observed afterward, choosing to look at the bright side. "But in stretches we allowed them to take over the game."

The loss snapped a three-game winning streak. Now it's up to the Trail Blazers to avoid something that held them back in the first half -- losing streaks.

Over their final 13 games of the first half, Portland had six- and three-game winning streaks. In between, they gave back more than half of their six-game run with a four-game losing skid.

The Timberwolves beat the Trail Blazers 116-102 in their only meeting last season in Minneapolis.

--Field Level Media