Blazers look to right what's wrong as they prepare for Suns
Posted: Thursday May 06, 1999 07:26 PM
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- In practical terms, Portland's season-ending game against the Los Angeles Lakers meant nothing. Win or lose, the Pacific Division-winning Blazers were seeded No. 2 in the Western Conference playoffs, and opening at home on Saturday.
Still, it was the way Portland fell to the Lakers on Wednesday night -- a 119-91 blowout in the final regular-season game at the LA Forum -- that left the Blazers' confidence shaken.
"I'm very concerned," backup point guard Greg Anthony said. "Our biggest opponent right now is ourselves. The commitment is not there. We've got too many agendas right now. If we don't address them before the playoffs, we're going to have a very short run."
Portland enters the opening round against No. 7-seeded Phoenix having lost two in a row and nine of their last 17. The Suns, on the other hand, closed out with nine victories in their last 12 games, including Wednesday's 100-96 win over Minnesota.
The Blazers won all three games against the Suns this season, but Phoenix's Tom Gugliotta was hurt for one game and a non-factor in another, and Rex Chapman missed two games with an injury and was ejected from the other. Both players are healthy now.
Phoenix (27-23) can look at a crucial six-day stretch in late April, during which it soundly beat Utah twice and Houston once, as a high point during its playoff run. The surge seems to have given the Suns the momentum that Portland is lacking.
"I think teams know we're clicking on all cylinders," Gugliotta said.
Portland (35-15) had the league's best record for much of the season, but struggled on the road, going just 13-12. The only playoff-bound teams the Blazers defeated away from home were Minnesota, Sacramento and Phoenix.
After a 27-point home thrashing of the Lakers on April 13, Portland lost nearly every big game it played, falling to Houston, Utah and twice each to the Lakers and Spurs.
The slide reached a peak Wednesday night, when the Blazers showed little interest in playing defense against the Lakers, especially Glen Rice.
The Blazers fell behind 34-21 after one quarter but pulled within seven at halftime. Rice then hit six of his eight 3-pointers in the third quarter, and the Lakers pulled away for the easy victory. Rice finished with 40 points, the most anyone scored against Portland this year.
"We came in here thinking that the game had no influence on us, and they played like it meant something to them," Blazers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "That wasn't the attitude I was looking for. We didn't have any urgency and we didn't have it mentally or physically."
Anthony, who's often been the spokesman for the Blazers this season, was more blunt.
"We played like a bunch of losers," he said. "We quit, period."
Asked to give a reason for the Blazers' lackluster play the final two weeks of the season, Anthony said, "I think you'd have to go through each individual and ask why. I'm sure there's a reason why, but I'm not psychic. I couldn't speak for everyone.
"We have a lot of issues that need to be resolved, and we need to get back into the business of winning basketball games. Right now, we're not concerned with that. I don't see the commitment to winning that we had. The commitment has lapsed, and we have to find a way to get it back within the next 48 hours."
Copyright © 1999 CNN/SI. A Time Warner Company.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.