Playing for pride
Blazers facing possible last game of turbulent season
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- The Portland Trail Blazers could be down to the last game of their tumultuous season, and they still can't believe how quickly they went from NBA title contender to a likely first-round victim of the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers lead the best-of-five series 2-0 and will try to close out the Blazers on Sunday in the Rose Garden.
"I'm not ready for it to be over," Portland's Scottie Pippen said Friday. "It's looking like it's about to be over, but I'm not ready for that. We have to come out and play for some pride."
The Blazers showed little of that during Thursday night's 106-88 loss in Los Angeles. After falling behind by 12 points in the fourth quarter, Portland began an embarrassing display of non-sportsmanship when Dale Davis was ejected for throwing an elbow at Robert Horry's chin.
On Friday, the NBA suspended Davis for Game 3 and fined him $15,000. Teammate Stacey Augmon also was suspended and fined $5,000 for leaving the bench area. Davis also received a flagrant foul in Game 1 and was fined $7,500 for verbally abusing the officials after fouling out.
A little more than four minutes after Davis was tossed, Rasheed Wallace was ejected for picking up two of the team's five technical fouls in the period. Pippen, who received a technical foul for bumping Kobe Bryant in his sore left side as Bryant was going toward the basket, admitted the behavior was somewhat embarrassing.
"We have to be a little bit more professional," Pippen said. "Fans pay to come watch us play. We have to compete to the last minute."
The Blazers have lost nine of their last 12 games going back to the regular season, and 16 of 24 since they had the Western Conference's best record (42-18) on March 6. And their performance hasn't improved against the Lakers, who have been dominant in the first two games.
"We don't want them to get a vision or a hope," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "I told the team, we want to keep a foot on their neck."
While the Lakers have been getting terrific production from stars Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, Portland is still waiting for its best player, Wallace, to take command. The Blazers had said they wanted Wallace to get 25 shots a game, but he's averaged only 16. He took 14 shots Sunday, making six, for 17 points. He had 24 points in the first game, but none in the fourth quarter.
The Blazers appeared unstoppable in the early minutes of Game 1, making 13 of their first 16 shots to take a 29-21 lead. But then they missed 14 of 16 and fell behind for good in the second quarter.
The Davis-Horry altercation came with 8:46 left to play. Horry bumped into Davis as the two went for a rebound, and Horry was called for a foul. But Davis reared back and flung his elbow toward Horry's head. Davis then raised a fist at Derek Fisher as the Lakers came to Horry's defense, but the incident ended peacefully as Davis exited.
"I think that was a product of the frustration, that he was getting beat up all night by Shaq," said Blazers coach Mike Dunleavy, who has been critical of the officials for not cracking down on O'Neal's physical play. "I don't think he meant to tag Horry with an elbow, but I think he meant just like Shaq does every time he swings his elbow. That could happen four or five times a game the way Shaq does his. He just hasn't connected yet."
Both Pippen and Bryant said the Lakers are playing better than last season's team that won the title, despite playoff losses of 19, 29 and 33 points -- to Phoenix, Portland and Indiana, respectively.
"There's a different attitude with this team, more of a seriousness," Bryant said. "It's just experience, knowing what type of intensity you have to bring. Last year we thought we were serious, then we went out and lost by 30."
Only five teams have rallied from an 0-2 deficit to win a best-of-five series, and the Lakers haven't lost three straight since Jackson became coach at the start of the 1999-00 season. But Dunleavy says it's not over yet.
"It makes certain people want to run and hide. Other people want to push it back against the wall and fight," he said. "I'm the latter kind, and I'm looking for us to come out here scratching, clawing, doing whatever we've got to do to win a ball game."