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C.J. McCollum drops 43 points in Blazers win (VIDEO)

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — When the Minnesota Timberwolves jumped out to a 12-point lead over Portland at halftime, the struggling Trail Blazers looked to be on their way to yet another loss.

Turns out C.J. McCollum had the young Wolves right where he wanted them.

McCollum scored a career-high 43 points to carry the Trail Blazers to a 95-89 victory Sunday night.

Mason Plumlee had 18 points and eight rebounds, and Evan Turner added 11 points for the Blazers. They were without star point guard Damian Lillard for the fourth straight game.

McCollum made 16 of 25 shots, including a 30-foot 3-pointer with just over 2:30 to play to put the game out of reach.

“We were being soft as a team and I think it showed in our performance,” McCollum said. “We knew that we needed to come out and compete.”

Andrew Wiggins scored 24 points for the Timberwolves. But Karl-Anthony Towns had just 11 points on 3-for-15 shooting and missed all six of his 3-pointers. Zach LaVine also was quiet with 13 points on 5-for-12 shooting and the Wolves fell to 9-11 in games in which they lead by double digits.

“I shot good shots, put them up with the same form and they just weren’t going in,” Towns said. “I tried to do other things, try to make free throws when you got them, get rebounds, make assists. I don’t know. I shot good shots, they just didn’t fall.”

Portland had lost seven of its last eight and was floundering with its star on the bench with ankle problems.

Lillard was listed as doubtful for the game with that sprained left ankle. He worked out hard before the game and showed no noticeable limp, but the Blazers started McCollum at point guard again with two days off before their next scheduled game. McCollum, who was averaging 26 points per game with Lillard out, scored 13 points in a ragged first quarter and put up 16 in a 32-15 third quarter that helped the Blazers turn a 14-point deficit into a five-point lead going into the fourth.

“Without Damian, that’s 28 points and a lot of defensive attention,” McCollum said. “Seven assists, six rebounds, so a lot more energy has to be utilized on my end. I have to try to keep guys involved and take over as a decision maker.”

The Wolves came back to tie it with 7:23 to play, but Shabazz Napier hit a big 3, Turner hit a soft jumper and Allen Crabbe knocked down another 3 to put the Blazers in front for good.

Before the game, Portland coach Terry Stotts said it was important for his players not to try to do too much with Lillard out.

“I just said there might be a guy who scores 10 more than you expect,” Stotts said. “He scored 20 more than I expected.”

TIP-INS

Trail Blazers: Crabbe had 10 points and a career-high eight rebounds. … McCollum topped 30 for the seventh time this season. His previous career high was 37. … Napier scored three points, the only bench player besides Turner to score.

Timberwolves: PG Ricky Rubio had a rough night, going 0 for 5 from the field and getting torched by McCollum on defense. He did not play in the fourth quarter. … Minnesota entered the game 10th in the NBA in free throw shooting, but missed six of them on Sunday night. … Towns did have 13 rebounds and six assists, all in the first quarter.

MISSING MOTIEJUNAS

The Timberwolves had a workout scheduled with free agent forward Donatas Motiejunas as they considered adding him to help them bolster a bench that has struggled mightily this season. After working out with New Orleans, Motiejunas took a flight to Minneapolis on Sunday. But by the time he got off the plane, he had an offer from the Pelicans on the table and canceled his workout with the Timberwolves.

“We never got a chance to sit down with him,” coach Tom Thibodeau said.

 

Kris Dunn shows off Globetrotter dribbling moves against Blazers (VIDEO)

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That. Is. Wicked.

Minnesota’s Kris Dunn broke out the crazy handles and went between Shabazz Napier‘s legs, drove baseline around a couple more Blazers, then whipped the pass out to Gorgui Dieng for the open jumper. That may have come on Jan. 1, but that will be on the 2017 highlight packages a year from now.

After an ugly first half, Portland came back to win 95-89, a win the Blazers need after a recent slide had them out of the playoffs in the West.

Tim Hardaway Jr.’s clutch three forces OT, where Hawks beat Spurs

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For the first time in his coaching career, Mike Budenholzer has beaten the Spurs.

But the long-time Spurs assistant — now Mr. Everything in Atlanta — needed some clutch help from Tim Hardaway Jr. The Spurs were up three with 10 seconds left, and this is the kind of game where San Antonio just out executes every other team and wins. Instead, the Hawks had the good execution: Mike Muscala set one heck of a moving screen, Kawhi Leonard hesitated for a second on the switch chasing Hardaway around it, and that created enough room for the game-tieing shot.

The Hawks went on to get the win in overtime, led on the night by Paul Milsap’s 25 points and nine rebounds. Also, the Hawks caught a break when Kawhi Leonard barely — and I mean barely — missed a game winner. Then in OT Leonard missed a layup to force second OT.

Report: Lance Stephenson ahead of schedule on recovery, could play by mid-January

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Lance Stephenson was playing well and had become a vital part of the Pelicans rotation early on — he got 27 minutes a night averaging 9.7 points and 4.8 assists per game. They needed his shot creation.

Then he tore his groin muscle and needed surgery. The Pelicans were already shorthanded (at the time Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holiday, and Quincy Pondexter were all out) so they waived Stephenson to create a roster spot so they could sign Archie Goodwin.

But Stephenson is making a quicker than expected recovery, reports Chris Haynes of ESPN.

It’s likely a few teams would have interest in him, he played well in New Orleans, although some teams may be cautious because of Stephenson’s reputation as disruptive to team chemistry (a reputation he says is undeserved). He had not landed a contract over the summer and came to training camp in New Orleans trying to play his way onto the team — and he did. Someone will give him another chance, though likely on a minimum contract (possibly with team options for next season).

Report: Atlanta Hawks listening to trade offers for All-Stars Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver

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Al Horford left last summer, and now Paul Millsap might be the next big name out the door in Atlanta as the Hawks organization is undergoing a major on-court shift.

Millsap has been expected to opt out this summer because, as a 10-year veteran, he can chase a massive, $35 million a year payday with a new deal. That apparently is not going to be happening in Atlanta. Chris Haynes tweeted about the issue, then Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst of ESPN added details.

S‎ources told ESPN.com that the Hawks, fearful of losing Millsap in free agency in the summer without compensation, are not openly shopping him but taking calls on the 31-year-old and their other pending free agents, notably sharpshooter Kyle Korver and swingman Thabo Sefolosha.

Although the Hawks managed to sign Dwight Howard in free agency last summer to fill a frontcourt void, they were stung by the free-agent departure of Al Horford from the perspective that Horford, in the words of one source with knowledge of the team’s thinking, got away “for nothing.”

The feeling within the organization now, sources said, is that it’s best to gauge the trade market for Millsap, Korver and Sefolosha between now and the Feb. 23 trade deadline to guard against a repeat scenario as much as the Hawks can.

Millsap is a three-time All-Star with a versatile game — he can score around the basket, he can hit threes (30.8 percent this season), he is a smart defender who plays very well as a help defender in the system (he’s made the NBA’s All-defensive team), and he is strong on the glass. He could fit into any system. Plenty of teams could use him.

Kyle Korver can still space the floor as a shooter, and Thabo Sefolosha is a “3&D” wing who still defends well but who has struggled some with his shot.

The Hawks will not get near equal return for Millsap, in part because he can be a free agent and seems to want to test the market — he’s a rental. Millsap also is going to be expensive to keep, demanding a max contract that he would be able to live up to for a couple of years, but he will turn 32 in February and in a four or five year deal the last year or two could see him in decline (and still very expensive).

Korver and Sefolosha also could be rentals, which will depress their trade value.

Also factoring into the trade equation: How badly do the Hawks want to make the playoffs. As of Sunday before games started they are the five seed in the East, but in the middle of a large group — only four games separate Charlotte at the four seed and Orlando with the 11 seed. Without Millsap, the Hawks could easily fall out of the playoffs.

Atlanta has Dwight Howard, Dennis Schroder, and Kent Bazemore locked up for a few years, but are undergoing an organizational shift now that will test Mike Budenholzer’s skills as a GM and team builder.