Timberwolves-Trail Blazers Preview
By MATT BEARDMORE
(AP) -- The Minnesota Timberwolves have been unable to string together consecutive wins since the last time they faced the Portland Trail Blazers, but it's been even longer since the Blazers won two in a row.
While neither of these struggling Northwest Division teams will be able to accomplish that feat Sunday night in Portland, one will pick up a much-needed victory.
Minnesota goes for the season sweep as it returns to the Rose Garden for the first time since ending a lengthy skid in this series.
In search of their first playoff berth since 2003-04, the Timberwolves (25-28) matched a season high with their third straight victory March 7, 106-94 over Portland (24-28).
However, since moving into eighth place in the Western Conference with that victory - its first in nine tries at home against the Trail Blazers - Minnesota has gone 4-9 to fall to 11th.
The Timberwolves open their two-game stretch on the road after losing for the third time in four home games, 100-79 to Atlantic Division-leading Boston on Friday.
"We've haven't won the games we needed to win here," coach Rick Adelman told the Timberwolves' official website. "Now we have to go on the road again."
Traveling to Oregon wouldn't usually give Adelman's team much optimism, but Minnesota ended an 11-game slide in Portland and 0-for-16 stretch in this series with a 122-110 victory March 3.
All-Star forward Kevin Love, who grew up in Lake Oswego just south of the Rose Garden, scored 42 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in that contest. He'll go for a seventh consecutive double-double against his hometown team after scoring 29 points and 16 boards March 7.
Love might have to shoulder even more of the scoring and rebounding load Sunday with Nikola Pekovic (ankle) and Michael Beasley (foot) questionable.
Portland, though, might not have All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge in the lineup for a second consecutive game due to a hyperextended elbow suffered in Thursday's 99-93 victory over New Orleans.
If Aldridge can't go, J.J. Hickson will likely be in the starting five again after recording season highs with 29 points and 13 rebounds Friday in a 98-97 road loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. The Blazers were targeting their first back-to-back wins since Jan. 23-24.
"It means nothing when you don't win," said Hickson, who is averaging 16.0 points and 5.8 boards in five games with the Blazers after being waived by Sacramento on March 19. "I would have loved to have gotten the win and been in here laughing and talking about it, but it's tough when you don't win after playing a great ballgame. It kind of goes down the drain."
If Portland opens its three-game homestand with a victory, it will move percentage points ahead of Minnesota.
Should the Timberwolves win, it will be their first season sweep of the Blazers since 2004-05.
Updated March 31, 2012