With a rash of injuries and some erratic play through the first half of the season, the Trail Blazers have spent a lot of time looking behind themselves in the Western Conference standings.
As Portland prepares to welcome Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge back from knee surgeries and riding the wave of a five-game win streak, it's time to look at the teams in front.
Portland's final action before the All-Star break is Wednesday night against New Orleans at the Rose Garden. Through Monday, the Blazers were tied with Utah for second place in the Northwest Division, four games behind Oklahoma City (34-19), and were tied for sixth in the Western Conference, a game and a half behind the fifth-place Hornets (33-23). Denver (31-25) was in eighth place, a half-game behind Portland and Utah, with Memphis (30-26) another game back.
"We're well aware what the other teams are doing," Portland coach Nate McMillan said. "We know we've got some opportunity to move up if we can keep winning. That's been a goal, to keep our focus and put up as many victories as we can."
The Blazers have been one of the NBA's better home teams -- they're 18-7 at the Rose Garden -- and their recent three-game road sweep has improved their mark away from home to 13-17.
TRAIL BLAZERS 95, TIMBERWOLVES 81: Dante Cunningham came through with career highs of 18 points and 13 rebounds as Portland beat Minnesota on Monday night at the Target Center. It was the Blazers' 16th consecutive victory over the Timberwolves and completed a four-game sweep of the season series.
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