McCollum, Lillard lead Blazers past Timberwolves 96-93
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers are enjoying the comforts of home.
Lillard and CJ McCollum scored 21 points apiece, and the Trail Blazers handed the Minnesota Timberwolves their 11th straight road loss with a 96-93 victory Sunday night.
Portland extended its winning streak to four and improved to 3-0 against the Timberwolves this season.
At home, Lillard says the team is able to more closely examine the scouting report. At home, Lillard is on his own time, playing by his own rules. It means something to him to be able to sleep in his own bed.
“Coming in we knew we had some winnable games and it was just a matter of us taking care of business,” Lillard said. “Over the last couple of games, we’ve defended better, we’ve shared the ball better and we’ve played more complete games, so that’s led us to being able to win four in a row.”
Each of the last four games, the Blazers have won by five points or less. This was Portland’s first win by three points or fewer this season.
Portland hasn’t always been able to come through in crunch time and pull out wins. The Trail Blazers’ first four losses came by a margin of six points or fewer.
“When you’re at home, you’ve got to protect your home court,” McCollum said. “When you have a lead — 10 points, five points, whatever it may be, down the stretch of a game, you’ve got to run clock, take advantage of the defense if they’re trapping and just try to get a good shot while using the clock every possession.”
Karl-Anthony Towns, a strong contender for Rookie of the Year, was the first player on the court in double figures and finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds for the Timberwolves. It was his 25th double-double, the most of any rookie this season.
Still, Towns is not satisfied.
“It’s nice to lead the league in double-doubles for rookies, but I’d rather lead with wins,” he said. “I’m not too happy about that. I’m just playing the game and trying to do everything I can to help my team win.”
Ricky Rubio hit a 3-pointer to close the gap to 92-90 with 13.1 seconds left. McCollum answered with free throws for the Blazers, and Minnesota couldn’t catch up.
Gerald Henderson made a 3 for Portland with 9:26 remaining to snap a tie. Towns answered with one of his own to even the score at 72.
Henderson wasn’t done. He hit an uncontested jumper to give Portland a lead it did not relinquish. A 3-pointer from Al-Farouq Aminu and a dunk by Meyers Leonard helped the Blazers build a 12-point cushion, their largest of the night.
Another dunk by Leonard that put Portland up 81-74 with 6:12 to go highlighted his 13-point performance.
Minnesota’s six unanswered points to begin the second half cut the Trail Blazers’ lead to three. Gorgui Dieng’s eight third-quarter points helped Minnesota claw its way to a two-point lead heading into the fourth.
As the first half was winding down, the teams traded points. Leonard’s 3 helped the Blazers go into halftime leading 48-39.
Minnesota entered ranked last in 3-point attempts this season and No. 29 in 3-point percentage at 32.4 percent. The Timberwolves went 0 for 5 on 3s in the first half.
Portland shot 22.2 percent from beyond the arc overall (6 for 27).
“We’re showing signs of growth,” Lillard said.
Timberwolves: Portland coach Terry Stotts on Towns: “He is probably the lead candidate for Rookie of the Year.”
Trail Blazers: McCollum hosted young journalists from Madison High School for “CJ’s Press Pass.” ... The Trail Blazers wore UCC T-shirts to remember the victims of the Umpqua Community College shooting last fall. During the game, the team honored several of those who responded to the tragedy.
Leonard led the Trail Blazers’ reserves in scoring and is averaging 10.6 points per game over his last nine. “I think he held his own defensively,” Stotts said. “I’ve said this a few times: He may or may not score, but his presence on the court offensively opens things up for (Lillard) and CJ and other guys.”
Timberwolves: At the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night.
Trail Blazers: Host the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night.