Damian Lillard returned to the Portland Trail Blazers lineup Sunday night after a five-game absence due to an abdominal injury, but did little to stop their slide as they fell in their fifth straight game.
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Injuries, inconsistent play and a poor road record (2-8) have given the Blazers a slow start this season, with their road record tied with the rebuilding Oklahoma City Thunder and only the Orlando Magic and Detroit Pistons have worse records.
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The Blazers’ salvation was their stellar game at their home floor, however, after starting the season with an impressive 10-1 record at Moda Center, they have now lost their last four games at home and last five overall. , dropping to 11th in the Western Conference at 11-16 on the season.
With CJ McCollum still out of the game with a collapsed right lung and no clear schedule on when he will return, Lillard’s return is the arm shot the Blazers need to help get their season back on track, but on their first outing. , all six – the All-Star looked far from his prime. While he finished with 24 points, 11 rebounds and six assists in 37 minutes against the Minnesota Timberwolves, he shot just 5 of 17 shots from the field, 3 of 14 from beyond the arc and had five of the Blazers’ 19 turnovers. .
“He seemed to be moving pretty well,” Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said. “Just rusty from not having played basketball in a few weeks.”
After Larry Nance Jr tied things at 106-106 with 2:28 to go, the Blazers were scoreless for the next two minutes, before Lillard hit a timely 3-pointer to cut it down to three points, but that’s the closest they came as the Timberwolves clinched a 116-111 victory.
“We don’t do anything for long enough periods,” Lillard said after the game. “Throughout the game it’s like we have good times, but we are not able to sustain it at either end. We do good things for some possessions and then we have some bad possessions. I think that is on both ends of the court and it will be difficult to win a game like this. “
With the win, the Timberwolves snapped their own five-game losing streak, while the Blazers’ five-game losing streak is their longest drought of the season.
The road ahead doesn’t get any easier for Lillard and company, with some tough matchups in their next 10 games, including games against the Phoenix Suns, Memphis Grizzlies (twice), Brooklyn Nets, Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Lakers and Atlanta. Hawks.
The good news at least is that half of his backcourt is back on the court and Lillard is hoping it will return to its best sooner rather than later.
“I know I’ll be better,” he said. “I’m excited to feel so much better.”