Work in Sports
Blazers dedicate series to assistant coach
Posted: Thursday May 04, 2000 10:27 AM
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- All Scottie Pippen needed was a pen.
He placed a basketball on the table in front of him after the Portland Trail Blazers eliminated the Minnesota Timberwolves from the NBA playoffs.
"That's the game ball," he said with a smile. "All the players and coaches are going to sign it, and we're going to give it to Coach Muss."
Blazers assistant Bill Musselman, a former Timberwolves coach, is hospitalized in Rochester with cancer.
"We dedicated this series and this win to him," Pippen said.
Musselman had planned on sitting behind the Blazers' bench at Target Center, but doctors wouldn't let him leave St. Marys hospital, where he's being treated for multiple myeloma, a malignancy of the bone marrow.
"One of our coaches is in the hospital fighting for his life," Brian Grant said. "We wanted to fight for him."
The Blazers beat the Wolves 85-77 on Tuesday night, winning the series 3-1. They'll face the Seattle-Utah winner in the second round.
"Basically we dug down and got this one for Coach Muss," Rasheed Wallace said. "That's what everybody is riding on. Our prayers are with him."
Musselman also was on the minds of the Wolves.
He was their first coach and also coached at the University of Minnesota, where he recruited Flip Saunders, who now coaches the Timberwolves.
Sam Mitchell played for Musselman in the CBA and said Musselman understood when he went to Europe for a bigger paycheck. He said Musselman promised him a job in the NBA when he rose through the ranks.
"Coaches tell you that all the time, but he remembered me," Mitchell said. "He didn't forget me and he signed me. He gave me my break. I mean, I love Muss. I'll always remember what he did for me."
Mitchell had a solid game Tuesday night but couldn't prevent the Wolves from losing in the first round for the fourth consecutive year.
All four games were close and came down to the final minute.
"I think Minnesota prepared us well for the rest of the playoffs," Pippen said. "They make you work on defense for 24 seconds. The series seemed tougher and longer than four games. But we needed this. I don't know if too many teams execute as well as Minnesota."
Actually, Minnesota again faded down the stretch. The Timberwolves led 66-57 seconds into the fourth quarter but made just four of their last 21 shots.
"It was tough," guard Bobby Jackson said, "because all year we won most every game we led going into the fourth quarter."
The Wolves were 40-4 in the regular season when leading after three quarters but 0-2 in the playoffs.
"We held them to 13 points in the fourth quarter, which is something," Portland guard Greg Anthony said. "Especially against a team of this caliber."
Six players scored in double figures for the Blazers.
"It's nice when you play team ball and everyone can contribute," said Wallace, who scored 15 points. "More than anything, we wanted to get the win; our coach is hospitalized and we wanted to get one for him."