Work in Sports
PORTLAND, Oregon (Ticker) -- After failing in his one-year stint in Houston, Scottie Pippen appears ready to make a serious playoff run with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Pippen scored a season-high 28 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead the Trail Blazers to a 91-88 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves in the opener of their Western Conference first-round playoff series.
Portland erased a 77-71 fourth-quarter deficit with a 12-3 run that Pippen capped with a hook shot with 3:08 left. He added four free throws in the final 86 seconds to seal the win.
"I try to lead by example," Pippen said. "I say my few words before, but I have to go out and do it for my teammates to listen to me. I told the guys whatever we do we have to lay it on the line."
After winning six NBA titles with Michael Jordan in Chicago, Pippen was unable to help the Rockets make it past the first round of the playoffs last season. After getting swept in last year's Western Conference finals by San Antonio, the Blazers acquired Pippen with the hope he would lead them to a championship.
"Pippen was unbelievable," Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders said. "They got him for just this situation, for his playoff experience. He was terrific. He was able to lead the team, and he got them off offensively."
Minnesota star forward Kevin Garnett recorded a triple-double but scored only 12 points, 11 below his season average, on 6-of-20 shooting. He had 11 assists and 10 rebounds.
Rasheed Wallace covered Garnett most of the day and held him to two points in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Wallace scored seven of his 15 points in the final period.
"I was pleased with the job we did on Kevin Garnett," Trail Blazers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "He is a tough guy but he had an off day. Rasheed always does a good job with him because Rasheed, like Kevin, has a lot of length to his game."
Damon Stoudamire scored 18 points and Steve Smith 17 for Portland.
Malik Sealy led Minnesota with 23 points.
Game Two of the best-of-five series is Wednesday at Portland.
After Garnett hit a 20-footer from the left side to give Minnesota a 77-71 lead with 10:35 left, the Timberwolves made only four of their last 17 shots.
A pair of free throws by Detlef Schrempf and a layup by Wallace pulled Portland within 77-75. After Sealy hit a jumper from the sideline, Arvydas Sabonis converted a basket and a free throw and Portland took the lead for good, 81-79, when Wallace completed a three-point play with 5:16 left.
Minnesota had a chance to tie, but Radoslav Nesterovic made just 1-of-2 free throws with 4:59 left.
After Pippen's jump hook increased Portland's lead to 83-80 with 3:08 left, Minnesota again had a chance to tie when Sealy was fouled by Smith while converting a shot in the lane. Sealy missed the free throw, however.
On Portland's ensuing possession, Stoudamire missed a 3-pointer, but Wallace grabbed the rebound and dunked. After a miss by Garnett, Pippen was fouled on a drive and converted both free throws, giving the Blazers an 87-82 cushion with 1:26 left.
"They made some stops. We didn't execute the way we would like down the stretch," Garnett said. "We have to give their defense credit, but at the same time, we were impatient."
Minnesota's Anthony Peeler missed a long 3-pointer from the corner with Pippen in his face. On the Timberwolves' next possession, Sealy was fouled and hit both free throws with 31 seconds left.
However, Pippen and Schrempf each made a pair of free throws in the final 15 seconds to seal the win.
"We had it close," Sealy said. "We didn't execute like we did in the first three quarters though. We kind of folded."
Pippen, Smith and Stoudamire combined for 31 points in the first quarter, when Portland raced to a 33-22 lead. The Trail Blazers closed the quarter with a 16-4 run as Pippen scored on a layup, jumper and dunk.
"I thought he would show a presence, and he certainly helped in getting us off to a good start," Dunleavy said of Pippen. "He was in an attack mode throughout the game. He got our guys going, taking the ball to the basket with authority."
Minnesota used a 10-0 second-quarter run to tie it at 35-35.
Terrell Brandon, who finished with 17 points, hit a pair of 15-foot jumpers to highlight the run.
The Timberwolves took their first lead of the period, 39-38, on a 23-foot jumper by Sam Mitchell with 4:17 left.
Rookie Wally Szczerbiak hit a pair of baskets as Minnesota started the second half with an 8-2 spurt to build a 55-50 lead.