Work in Sports
Better with age
Pippen, Sabonis lead Blazers to 2-0 series lead
Posted: Thursday April 27, 2000 10:11 AM
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Bewildered by Scottie Pippen's energy and discouraged by two close losses, the Minnesota Timberwolves promise not to go out with a whimper against the Portland Trail Blazers.
"Home is where the heart is," Kevin Garnett said after Wednesday night's 86-82 playoff defeat. "[The] Target Center will be rocking when we come out. As I said all year, that's the socket and I'm the plug, and I'm getting ready to plug in. I'm ready to rock on Sunday.
"The Minnesota fans feel like they are a part of the team. Even our own governor (Jesse Ventura) gets out of control, and he has a Rasheed Wallace attack every once in a while."
The Timberwolves, 3-11 in their playoff history, are trying to avoid getting bounced out of the first round for the fourth straight year. If they should lose in Game 3 on Sunday, they can look back with pride on this season, but they'll have only one man to blame for its disappointing end.
The indomitable Pippen.
The six-time NBA champion, who had his lowest-scoring regular season since his rookie year, dominated the crucial moments of the game Wednesday night, scoring nine of his 21 points in the final 6 1/2 minutes. He also forced Malik Sealy into taking a hopelessly off-target 3-pointer in the final seconds and made one of two free throws to seal it with 7.9 seconds left.
"He has been incredible these first two games," Blazers coach Mike Dunleavy said of Pippen. "We just look forward to him leading the way."
For the second consecutive game, Pippen won his matchup with rookie Wally Szczerbiak, who had just two points on 1-of-5 shooting. Sealy didn't fare much better against Pippen, shooting 3-for-12 with eight points after scoring 23 on Sunday.
"I knew they were going to come out and try to stop me from being aggressive early on," said Pippen, who scored a season-high 28 points in the Blazers' 91-88 victory in Game 1 on Sunday. "So I waited for opportunities.'
Pippen, a career 17.3-point scorer, averaged just 12.5 this season on a talent-rich team. He scored at least 21 points only six times all season, and his high was 25 at San Antonio on March 28.
After Damon Stoudamire hit two free throws with 15.4 seconds left for an 85-82 lead, the Timberwolves got the ball to Sealy. Pippen was all over him, though, and Sealy's fallaway 3-point try was long off the glass.
"I just got out and contested his shots," Pippen said. "We want him to shoot the ball from the outside."
Kevin Garnett, just 6-of-20 from the field in Game 1, had 23 points on 8-of-16 shooting, and Terrell Brandon had 20 to lead the Timberwolves.
Arvydas Sabonis had 19 points despite getting into foul trouble for the second consecutive game, and Stoudamire had 13.
Unlike Game 1, when the Blazers had to come back from a six-point deficit in the fourth quarter, they entered Wednesday night's final period leading 67-58.
Pippen's 3-pointer put the Blazers up 79-71 with 5:21 to go, but the Timberwolves wouldn't quit. After Game 1, Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said his players were taking cheap shots from the Blazers and not fighting back.
Both teams responded to the rhetoric, because the fourth quarter was filled with rough play, and both sides were howling almost nonstop at the referees.
Portland's Rasheed Wallace was so incensed when a foul wasn't called on his missed dunk that he chased Brandon all the way up the court and grabbed hold of him just so he could vent on the officials. Wallace had to be restrained by teammate Steve Smith, but even though he already had one technical foul, he wasn't ejected.
Brandon missed the technical free throw, but made his other two, closing the Wolves to 79-77 with 1:59 to go. After a long jumper by Sabonis, Garnett and Pippen traded sets of free throws, leaving Portland with an 83-79 lead with 72 seconds left.
Garnett drove to the basket and got fouled, but could make only one of two free throws. Brandon missed a 3-pointer, and Anthony Peeler tipped it in to cut it to 83-82 with 17.5 seconds to go.
But Minnesota had to foul Stoudamire, and after he hit his shots, the Timberwolves couldn't counter.
"There's no question that they're the team with experience," Saunders said. "Whenever we had a defensive lapse, they really took advantage."
Notes: The Timberwolves are 7-38 against the Blazers, including 3-21 in Portland. ...Joe Smith went down with 26 seconds left in the first quarter when he got tangled up with Brandon. Smith had to be helped off the court with a hyperextended right knee, but he returned in the second period and finished with four points. ...The Blazers are 17-4 at Minnesota, but they're only 19-62 on the road in the playoffs.