The frustration level is rising for the Minnesota Timberwolves, who carry a five-game losing streak into Sunday night’s matchup against the host Portland Trail Blazers.
Minnesota ended November by winning seven of eight but has struggled since turning the calendar. The team’s past three losses have come by an average of 20 points.
Minnesota has lost its past eight games at Portland.
“I’ve lost for a long time here,” Wolves center Karl-Anthony Towns said. “I’m not trying to lose anymore. It’s pretty simple as that. Food don’t taste good. Life don’t feel the same. Disappointing. Just disappointing. Just tired of coming up here and saying a bunch of stuff at the end of a game, because it never translates to the next game.”
The Blazers, meantime, are struggling mightily. They have lost four in a row, have some significant injury problems, and are trying to put some turmoil behind them: General manager Neil Olshey recently was fired due to violations of the team’s code of conduct.
Interim general manager Joe Cronin has a number of issues to address, including swirling trade rumors surrounding star guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.
The Blazers are off to a disappointing start at 11-15, but Cronin appears unlikely to trade his coveted veterans this month.
“The organization wants to win,” Cronin said. “There are times when you have to take a step back in order to make a step forward, and we are not convinced that this is that time yet. Our approach today is not a re-tool or a rebuild. It’s an enhance. We haven’t discussed one time about taking a step back.”
Lillard and McCollum were unavailable on Wednesday, when the Blazers fell to 1-11 on the road with a 104-94 loss to the Golden State Warriors.
McCollum is out indefinitely with a collapsed right lung, creating more playing time for guards Dennis Smith Jr., Anfernee Simons and Ben McLemore.
Simons has missed the past three games with a right-ankle sprain and is listed as day-to-day. The fourth-year pro is averaging a career-high 12 points while shooting 38.1 percent from 3-point range.
Lillard has missed the past five games due to an abdominal injury but could return for Sunday’s contest.
The six-time All-Star, who averaged 34 points in three games against Minnesota last season, has stated repeatedly that he would prefer to remain in Portland.
“He’s a Trail Blazer, period,” coach Chauncey Billups said. “He doesn’t want to go anywhere, he’s not going anywhere. He believes in what we’re doing here. That says a lot, because we’ve been going through a ton, on the floor and off the floor, we’ve been going through it a little bit. He’s the type of player and superstar that every team wants to have.”
Lillard’s return to the lineup would provide a major boost against Minnesota, which is looking to regroup following Friday’s 123-106 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Towns scored 21 points in the defeat, but the Wolves never recovered after falling behind 20-4 to start the game.
“The start was everything,” coach Chris Finch said, calling it “a game that we desperately needed, on our own floor, before we hit the road. The start was poor, and the rest of the game was wholly unacceptable.”
Minnesota point guard D’Angelo Russell has missed the past three games due to right-ankle soreness and is listed as questionable for Sunday’s contest.
–Field Level Media