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Pippen's peak

Blazers forward hits season high in opening win

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Posted: Monday April 24, 2000 02:59 AM

  Rasheed Wallace Portland's Rasheed Wallace avoids Minnesota's Kevin Garnett for a layup. AP

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- The trade that brought Scottie Pippen and his six NBA championships to the Portland Trail Blazers never looked better than it did Sunday.

Pippen, showing the kind of playoff leadership the Blazers have lacked for years, scored a season-high 28 points and helped hold the Minnesota Timberwolves to 13 points in the fourth quarter as Portland rallied for a 91-88 victory Game 1 of the best-of-five series.

"I tried to step up my game and put all my energy into coming out and being aggressive, and doing whatever it takes for us to win - by any means necessary," Pippen said.

The Blazers trailed 75-69 to start the fourth quarter, but came back when Minnesota, which had been making its jump shots all game, suddenly started forcing them.

Pippen, who spent a miserable season in Houston last year after helping Michael Jordan win six titles in Chicago, showed his old playoff grit late in the game. He drove to the basket and was hit across the right side of the face by Anthony Peeler with 1:26 left. Pippen grimaced in pain, but still made his foul shots for an 87-82 lead.

"I thought Pippen was unbelievable," Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders said. "I saw a lot of stuff in the paper about how they got Scottie for this situation, and he got them off to a great start. He was phenomenal."

The Timberwolves got within three twice, on two free throws by Malik Sealy and a drive by Terrell Brandon. But Pippen and Detlef Schrempf combined for four free throws in the final 16 seconds to seal it.

T'wolves at Blazers
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Scottie Pippen's performance got the Blazers off to a good start. Start (1.5 M .mov)
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Sealy had 23 points to lead the Timberwolves. Garnett had 12 points, a career high-tying 11 assists, and 10 rebounds, but he shot just 6-of-20, including 1-for-5 in the fourth quarter. Brandon had 17 points and 12 assists.

The Timberwolves, who have never won a playoff series in their 11-year history, fell to 0-4 in openers.

"We always seem to be in position to win at the end, but for some reason we can't seem to come through," Garnett said.

Blazers center Arvydas Sabonis had a horrible start, missing his first six shots and getting into foul trouble. His first basket came with 10:35 to play, and it pulled the Blazers to 75-71.

That seemed to energize the 7-foot-3 Lithuanian. He sank a 20-foot jumper and hit one of two free throws after bowling over Joe Smith, who had to leave the game after hitting his head on the court.

Sabonis then fed Rasheed Wallace for a layup and a foul with 5:16 left, and Wallace's free throw gave the Blazers their first lead since halftime, 81-79.

The Timberwolves hurt themselves by shooting just 26 percent in the fourth quarter and turning over the ball five times after committing just seven in the first three periods.

"Those guys can shoot. If you're not getting to their jumpers, they're going to make shots, pure and simple," said Greg Anthony, who held Brandon to just two points on 1-of-4 shooting in the fourth.

Minnesota also had been 20-0 on the road when leading after three quarters, but that streak came to an abrupt halt.

Local Look
The Timberwolves may have felt they were entering this series with momentum on their side because they had won the past two contests with the Blazers. But the Portland players obviously weren't convinced.

"They feel like winning the last two games gave them the upper hand, but it's a good matchup for us," Scottie Pippen told The Oregonian before Sunday's Game 1.

"Not to take anything away from them, but we kind of beat ourselves," reserve center Jermaine O'Neal said. "We're very deep, and we have a ton of talent. I don't think they have enough firepower to compete with our rotation." 

The Timberwolves were second only to the Blazers in field-goal shooting this season, but were just 17th in 3-point percentage. Showing strong discipline, Minnesota took just two 3s in the first half -- missing both -- preferring makeable mid-range jumpers.

That all fell apart in the fourth. After a 20-foot jumper by Sealy put Minnesota ahead 79-75 with 8:12 left, the Timberwolves missed 10 of 11 shots until Brandon's layup with 9.2 seconds left. Eight of those misses were long jumpers, including two airballs.

The first quarter belonged to Pippen, who scored 13 points and hit six of seven shots. Three of those were superb inside baskets. First he drove and dunked left-handed over Wally Szczerbiak, then had a more emphatic slam over Radoslav Nesterovic. Later he went up in the air, switched the ball to his left and laid it off the glass.

"Even I was impressed with how strong he took the ball to the basket," Portland coach Mike Dunleavy said. "He was the big key for us, getting off to a good start, and late in the game, he kept the attack mode on."

Pippen also hit an open 3-pointer and sank two more long jumpers in the final 1:27. After the Timberwolves made the mistake of double-teaming Schrempf inside, Damon Stoudamire wound up with a wide-open 3-pointer to cap a 16-4 run and give the Blazers a 33-22 lead.

It didn't take long for the Timberwolves to come back. Peeler scored the team's first five points, and Brandon hit two mid-range jumpers as Portland hit just one field goal in the first 6 1/2 minutes. A short hook by Nesterovic capped a 13-2 run and tied it at 35.

Pippen hit a 3, and the teams traded leads four times the rest of the half. Garnett launched a 20-footer over Wallace that dropped in at the buzzer to pull Minnesota within 48-47.

Notes: Portland's Bonzi Wells, a valuable backup to Steve Smith during the regular season, struggled in his first playoff game. He had zero points on 0-for-2 shooting as Minnesota held a 19-4 edge in bench scoring. ... Smith has made 43 of his past 47 postseason free throws, dating to last season with Atlanta.

Related information
Hometown heroes Brandon, Stoudamire square off
Blazers' veterans ready to finish the job
Blazers assistant diagnosed with cancer
T'wolves-Blazers Game Summary
Minnesota's Kevin Garnett talks about contending with the crowd in the Rose Garden. (125 K)
Garnett comments on his 6-for-20 shooting performance and the Trail Blazers' defense. (242 K)
Portland's Scottie Pippen talks about his aggressive play and scoring a season-high 28 points. (158 K)
Pippen comments on how he becomes focused for the playoffs. (237 K)
Timberwolves' coach Flip Saunders comments on Portland's defensive scheme against Garnett. (203 K)
Saunders talks about Minnesota's performance. (241 K)
Garnett says his team played hard -- but the end result is all too familiar for him. (130 K)
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