Blazers hope to get back on track, host Timberwolves
(Sports Network) - J.J. Hickson is making the most of his second season with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Hickson and the Blazers are still within striking distance of a playoff spot and look to gain some order of semblance when they resume a four-game homestand Saturday versus the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Rose Garden.
Having lost eight of nine games, the Blazers are coming off Wednesday's disappointing 111-109 loss to the Northwest-rival Denver Nuggets. Hickson did his part with his fourth straight double-double and 31st of the season as he ended with 18 points and 14 rebounds. He is averaging 19 points and 13 rebounds in his last four games.
In three games against the Nuggets this season, Hickson owns a double-double in all three, posting 18.3 points and 15.0 rebounds per contest. Hickson also has now shot 50.0 percent or better from the field in 20 straight games, extending his franchise-long streak.
All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge had a good look at the end against the Nuggets, but his shot fell short. Rookie Damian Lillard made it close at 110-109 on a 3-pointer, but the Nuggets took over at the line. Lillard netted 26 points and Aldridge finished with 22 for Portland, which exchanged leads with Denver 17 times, including nine in the last period.
"It's tough to come up short at the end of a game that we really needed to win," Lillard said.
Lillard was given his trophy for winning the NBA Skills Challenge at All-Star weekend. He leads all rookies in scoring (18.4 ppg) and assists (6.4 apg).
Aldridge passed Rasheed Wallace for eighth on Portland's all-time field goals made list. Denver scored 26 points off 19 Blazers turnovers. The Blazers are now 8-2 when losing in games decided by two points or less.
Portland is 18-10 in the Rose City and will close out residency versus the Charlotte Bobcats Monday. In order for Portland to remain in the playoff hunt, the Blazers will have to take care of business at home and receive some help from other teams around the league.
The Blazers should be able to take care of a Minnesota squad that is mired in a four-game slide and owns just four wins since early January (4-20).
Minnesota will close out a three-game road trip (0-2) Saturday and dropped a 116-94 decision against the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday. Kobe Bryant scored 33 points in three quarters, while J.J. Barea paced Minnesota with 20 points. Luke Ridnour added 19 points and Ricky Rubio provided 13 points, 13 assists and eight boards for the T'Wolves, who were outscored in every quarter and made 45.7 percent of their shots.
"We just didn't have enough tonight," Minnesota coach Rick Adelman said. "They shot the ball really well and Kobe (Bryant) pretty much dominated the game."
Wolves forward Andrei Kirilenko was sidelined with a strained left calf and center Nikola Pekovic went to the locker room in the first half with an abdominal strain and did not return. Kirilenko is out indefinitely and Pekovic is questionable against Portland.
Minnesota is still toiling without former All-Star Kevin Love (broken hand), who could make his return in the near future.
After visiting the Blazers, the Wolves, who are only 7-21 on the road, will return home for two straight and four of five games.
The Timberwolves have lost the first three meetings of the season with Portland and will try to avoid their fifth series sweep in six years. The Blazers have won four straight and 20 of the last 22 meetings with Minnesota, which has lost two straight and 13 of its last 14 trips to the Rose City.