The Portland Trail Blazers began a seven-game road trip on Wednesday night at Target Center that will take them throughout the Midwest and East these next 12 days. The Wolves begin one of their very own Sunday that takes them to Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Oakland, San Antonio and Oklahoma City before they return to Target Center.
Can you say "season defining" for two teams chasing the West's eighth and final playoff spot?
"Definitely, especially with both teams in that ninth, 10th spot," Blazers All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge said. "If you go out and lose four or five, you can go from that to not even being in the race anymore. These road trips are huge right now."
The Blazers played three games at home and went 1-2 in those games before flying to Minneapolis on Tuesday to start their trip. Included was a 122-110 loss on Saturday that was the Wolves' first victory in Portland since December 2005.
The Wolves are in the midst of a four-game homestand that ends with games Friday against the Lakers and Saturday against New Orleans.
"They were caught in the position last week that we're in this week," Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. "They had those home games and let 'em get away, and it put them behind the 8-ball going into a seven-game trip. If we win these games at home, it gives you a little cushion going into that trip. You don't feel there's that much pressure. You lose them and now you feel you've got to win on the road to maintain and stay close."
Where in the world is...
Wolves center Nikola Pekovic missed his second consecutive game because he still has soreness and some swelling on his ankle that also caused him to miss Monday's game against the Clippers.
He said X-rays were negative and he said the injury isn't serious.
"No, no, no, just a few days for sure," he said. "Little rest, it will be fine. We'll see how it feels tomorrow. Hopefully it will be fine."
Darko Milicic started at center again in place of Pekovic.
Whoever would have thought the Timberwolves would be in the chase for the final playoff spot this season?
Well, Blazers coach Nate McMillan said he isn't surprised.
"You know it's going to happen one day," he said. "This team has been rebuilding for the last few years. You keep getting high lottery picks, then you bring in a very good coach in Coach Adelman, and Love each year has improved his game. ... They've put themselves in a position where it's finally coming together."
An octopus named Love
Wolves forward Kevin Love will release an octopus named after him into a new tank at the Mall of America's Sea Life Minnesota aquarium Thursday afternoon. What's the connection between the two-time All-Star and K-Love the Octopus? Something about their many tentacles and long reach for either rebounds or crustaceans.
Asked what he planned to do with the octopus, Love said, "I don't know, I'm just going to go, release it and eat ice cream with the kids."
Barea hurts ankle again
Wolves guard J.J. Barea turned his left ankle midway through the fourth quarter and left the game. It's the same ankle that sidelined him earlier this season. This one is worse, he said.
"Frustrated, but you know what? We're winning so I just got to try to get healthy and come back as quick as I can," he said.
"We'll see. It's just a sprained ankle. I'm pretty good at coming back from these, so hopefully I'll be back pretty quick."
The Wolves likely will recall rookie Malcolm Lee from Sioux Falls in the D League if Barea is out for a considerable length of time.