Work in Sports
Same old story
Blazers continue Timberwolves' first-round woes
Posted: Wednesday May 03, 2000 03:12 PM
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Steve Smith got mad, then he kept the Minnesota Timberwolves from getting even.
Smith hit a key 3-pointer minutes after drawing a technical for tangling with Anthony Peeler, and the Portland Trail Blazers went on to eliminate the T'wolves from the NBA playoffs with an 85-77 victory Tuesday night.
"I thought if I hit that one, it would really take the life out of them," Smith said.
And it did.
The Blazers won the best-of-five series 3-1 and advanced to face the Utah-Seattle winner. The Jazz lead that series 2-1 with Game 4 Wednesday night in Seattle.
Minnesota failed to reach the second round for the fourth straight season. Blame the T'wolves' starters, who shot just 35 percent from the floor.
Smith and Peeler confronted each other with 5:07 left and the T'wolves clinging to a 73-72 lead. Smith fell down after taking a long jumper, and Peeler, angered at having caught an elbow on the play, walked over him slowly. The two jawed at each other and drew double-technical fouls.
A minute later, Smith was called for a foul on Peeler, and Smith stared him down again. Blazers coach Mike Dunleavy took Smith out briefly.
"I didn't want his emotions to get away from him," Dunleavy said.
Smith, who rarely gets rankled, said he just couldn't help confronting Peeler.
"I don't want anybody to step on me when I'm down," he said. "But that's over. I don't want to get into that. It was the heat of the moment. It's a playoff game. It's over."
And so is Minnesota's season, thanks to Smith.
After the game, Smith and Peeler put the dispute behind them, shaking hands as they walked off the court.
"We're tight," Peeler said. "We're friends."
The Blazers trailed 75-74 before Smith's 3-pointer with 3:45 left, and the T'wolves never regained the lead.
Scottie Pippen (11 points) penetrated and dished off to Smith, who finished with 14 points, one fewer than Rasheed Wallace and Arvydas Sabonis.
"Pippen really helped me. He drew two defenders, and I was wide open," Smith said.
After Grant's basket gave Portland a 79-75 lead, Terrell Brandon's layup made it 79-77 with just under a minute left.
Wallace banked in a jumper from the top of the circle with 32 seconds left, barely beating the buzzer and giving Portland a four-point lead. His two free throws 12 seconds later iced it.
Kevin Garnett, who nearly recorded his third triple-double of the series, finishing with 17 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, said Smith's 3 and Wallace's buzzer beater were dual daggers.
"Those are like pins in your back, thorns in your arms," Garnett said. "Everything you have in you, it takes it out of you."
Greg Anthony capped the scoring with two free throws. It was the first time in eight games between the teams this season that the final margin was bigger than seven points.
The Timberwolves, who blew a 13-point lead, again got inspired play from their reserves. This time, Bobby Jackson, who didn't play at all in Game 3, scored 11 points, and the T'wolves outscored the Blazers by 13 points when he was in the game.
Jackson had six points, an assist and a forced turnover in the final six minutes of the third quarter as the T'wolves broke away from a 50-50 tie to take a 64-57 lead into the fourth quarter.
The T'wolves, who won 50 games for the first time in the franchise's 11-year history, were 40-4 this season when leading after three quarters, but 0-2 in the playoffs. They also lost Game 1 after taking a lead into the final quarter.
Jackson took a seat with the T'wolves up 66-59, and by the time he returned three minutes later, the Blazers were up 70-68, thanks to six points from Detlef Schrempf. Jackson's quick 3-pointer gave Minnesota a 73-72 lead, but he came out again in favor of Brandon with the T'wolves clinging to a 75-74 lead.
And that's when Smith made his big bucket.
The T'wolves led 40-36 at halftime. They grabbed a 13-point lead in the second quarter, the largest of the series for either team, but their 36 percent shooting kept the Blazers in it.
Portland closed the half on a 13-4 run.
The T'wolves, who set a franchise playoff mark by making 54 percent of their shots in Game 3 Sunday, scored just one basket in the final 6 1/2 minutes of the half, and their starters made just 13 of 38 shots for a 25 percent clip in the first half.
Brandon's jumper made it 36-23 with 6:25 left in the half, but the T'wolves went from frosty to frigid, managing only Malik Sealy's jumper and two free throws by Garnett before the break, muting the sellout crowd of 19,006 at Target Center.
"This is one of those valleys, but I don't think anyone expected us to play them that hard throughout the series," Sealy said.
Notes: The T'wolves missed 12 of their first 17 shots yet still
managed to hold the halftime lead for the third straight game. They
trailed by a point at the break in Game 1. ... After tying an NBA
playoff record by combining for just 13 turnovers on Sunday, the
teams eclipsed that with six minutes left in the first half. ...
The Blazers signed a game ball afterward for assistant Bill
Musselman, a former Timberwolves coach who is hospitalized in
Rochester with cancer. "We want to dedicate this whole series and
this win to him," Pippen said.