Timberwolves snap Blazers' win streak
For want of a last shot, and some better shooting overall, the Trail Blazers' season-best winning streak came to an end on Monday night.
Portland, which had won six in a row, lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves 110-109 at Target Center.
The Blazers fell to 38-39, while Minnesota improved to 31-45, 12th out of 15 teams in the Western Conference.
Denver, which began the day two games behind Portland in their battle for the eighth and final NBA West playoff spot, was idle and remained at 36-40.
The Blazers have the tiebreaker with Denver, giving them a still- commanding edge and an almost certain first-round matchup with Golden State.
Portland dropped to 1-1 since the regular-season-ending injury (broken right fibula) to 7-foot center Jusuf Nurkic.
Without the "Bosnian Beast," the Blazers again tried to play a lot of small ball, with some success.
Backup center Meyers Leonard got in for only 11 minutes after starting, and he was 0 for 4 from the field, scoring no points with two points and two assists.
Damian Lillard led Portland with 25 points, 12 in the fourth quarter, but he missed a jumper in the final second that would have given the visitors the win.
CJ McCollum had 17 points out of the starting backcourt, as did Moe Harkless as a starting forward. The other starting forward, Noah Vonleh, had 12 points.
Forward Al-Farouq Aminu finished with 20 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three blocks.
From beyond the arc, Lillard was 3 of 11, McCollum 0 of 3. Portland was 11 of 32 (32.4 points) on 3-pointers and 44.2 percent from the field, failing to take better advantage of a night in which they committed just five turnovers.
Portland's bench of Aminu, Allen Crabbe and Evan Turner outscored the five Minnesota reserves 38-16, but the Timberwolves got big mileage from their big names.
Forward Andrew Wiggins and center Karl-Anthony Towns used their size to do significant damage. Wiggins finished with 29 points, and Towns had 34 points and 12 rebounds. Together, they were 26 of 49 from the field. Towns had 14 points in the fourth quarter.
Minnesota shot 48.4 percent from the floor and was 4 of 9 on 3-pointers.
Monday's game came about after a March 6 meeting in Minneapolis had to be postponed because of wet court conditions at the T-Wolves' arena.
The Blazers trailed much of the first half on Monday, but with Aminu hitting three late 3's from the 5 spot, they pulled ahead 57-49 at the half.
Although Portland led by as many as 12 points in the third quarter, the Timberwolves scored on 19 of 23 possessions and grabbed an 86-83 lead going into the final 12 minutes.
The margin was still three in Minnesota's favor when Lillard missed a 2 and McCollum failed from 3 inside the final 90 seconds.
Towns scored from the left block to give the Timberwolves a 108-103 edge with 57.3 seconds remaining.
Lillard hit a 3 four seconds later, but Towns got a dunk off good ball movement by Minnesota.
A potential late Blazers rally began with 32.1 seconds left, when Crabbe was fouled on an inside shot. He sank only the first of two free throws, but Aminu came in untouched for an uncontested putback that pulled the Blazers to within 110-109.
Portland got the ball back with 4.9 seconds to play on a 24-second violation, after Aminu blocked a drive by Ricky Rubio.
But Lillard's 18-foot jumper off the dribble from the left side rimmed out, and the Blazers weren't able to get a tip-in at the buzzer.
Portland, which had defeated Minnesota 112-100 at Moda Center on March 25, now heads to Utah for a 6 p.m. PT Tuesday game.
Then the Blazers and T-Wolves will meet for a final time this season, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Portland.
The Blazers' final three regular-season games are at home, as well, against Utah at 7 p.m. Saturday, then San Antonio at 7 p.m. Monday, and finally versus New Orleans at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 12.