Work in Sports
MINNEAPOLIS (Ticker) -- The Portland Trail Blazers used depth and defense to dispatch the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Trail Blazers got a big boost from their bench in the fourth quarter, when they held the Timberwolves to 23 percent shooting and rallied for an 85-77 victory that wrapped up their Western Conference first-round series in four games.
Steve Smith scored seven of his 14 points around a scuffle in the fourth quarter for Portland, which limited Minnesota to 5-of-22 shooting in the final period. The Trail Blazers gave up two points in the final four minutes.
Portland is considered the NBA's deepest team but its bench was outscored in every game this series. However, in the fourth quarter, Blazers reserves scored 13 points, matching Minnesota's total for the entire period.
"That is the strength of our team," said Smith, a starter. "We have some guys that come off the bench that have been starters and been through this before and can play well."
Arvydas Sabonis collected 15 points and 11 rebounds and Rasheed Wallace added 15 and eight for the second-seeded Blazers, who reached the conference semifinals for the second straight year and await the winner of the Utah-Seattle series.
Minnesota's Kevin Garnett nearly had his third triple-double of the series with 17 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. But he made just 5-of-20 shots, missing his last six.
"Through the course of the game, you try to find a way to spark yourself, the team and the crowd," Garnett said. "I'm one that sometimes tries too hard. You can say, 'Live by the jump shot, die by the jump shot,' but in my mind, I say, 'Keep shooting.'" "I think KG tired in the fourth quarter," Portland reserve forward Brain Grant said. "TB (Terrell Brandon) was tired as well. Our depth helped us get through it."
The Timberwolves shot just 35 percent (29-of-82) and exited in the first round for the fourth straight season. Minnesota fell to 2-5 all-time at home in the postseason and never has won a playoff series.
"We didn't shoot the ball real well," Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said. "I thought we had some good looks, especially in the fourth quarter, but it was a carbon copy of the first game.
We had good looks and could not put it in the basket."
Garnett opened the fourth quarter with a jumper to give the Wolves a 66-57 lead. A 3-pointer by reserve guard Greg Anthony cut the deficit to 68-64 and triggered a 9-0 run. Wallace made a runner and backup forward Detlef Schrempf hit a jumper and two free throws to give Portland a 70-68 lead with 7:36 to go.
"The guys off the bench came in and did a great job," Portland coach Mike Dunleavy said. "Detlef and Greg were huge for us tonight."
Smith had a shoving match with Wolves guard Anthony Peeler and both received technical fouls. The teams traded points for the next three minutes until Smith hit a 3-pointer to give Portland the lead for good at 77-75 with 3:48 remaining.
"(Scottie) Pippen really helped me by driving and drawing two defenders," Smith said. "I was wide open and that's one I thought, If I hit it, it would really take some life out of them. And I think it did."
"Steve Smith hit a huge shot for us," Dunleavy said. "I wanted to take him out of the game and get his emotions under control and then he came out and hit a huge shot. Down the stretch, we had the intensity level."
After Peeler missed a short jumper, Grant scored inside just before the shot clock expired to push the lead to four points with 2:58 left. Garnett missed a jumper and Portland committed a turnover before Terrell Brandon drove for a hoop that cut the deficit to 79-77 with 57 seconds to go.
Minnesota played tough defense and Wallace took a pass above the foul line. With the shot clock winding down, he banked in a 19-footer with 32 seconds left. Joe Smith and Garnett missed on the next possession and Wallace and Anthony each made a pair of free throws in the final seconds.
"He called glass. I heard him call glass," Smith joked. "I was just glad it went in. It was a big shot."
"Rasheed made a 'horse' shot, which was great for them but terrible for us," Brandon said.
Damon Stoudamire scored 11 points and Schrempf added 10 for the Blazers, who shot 47 percent (31-of-66) and made 20-of-27 from the line to overcome 18 turnovers.
"Those guys, the big guns for their team, were playing heavy minutes," Smith said. "I think tonight we kind of wore them down a bit. I also think it was the pressure. They missed a couple shots and we kept pressing and pressing."
"I thought ther big key for them was Detlef Schrempf," Saunders said. "He came in for 16 minutes and did a really nice job. He helped them a lot defensively and was another big body in there.
He took some big shots and made big plays."
Brandon scored 13 points and Bobby Jackson added 11 for the Wolves, who held a 24-20 edge in bench points but were outscored 34-20 in the paint.
"I'm really disappointed," Jackson said. "I wanted to get past the first round. It was tough, because all year we won most every game we led going into the fourth quarter."
Minnesota grabbed a 22-18 lead after one quarter and Garnett and Mitchell had 3-pointers in a 14-5 run that opened the second period and gave the Wolves their largest lead at 36-23 with 6:29 left.
Portland rallied within 40-36 at halftime and grabbed a 43-42 lead early in the third quarter as Steve Smith had a jumper and a three-point play.
Brandon picked up his fourth foul with eight minutes to go in the period but Jackson came on and sparked the Wolves. He had six points and forced a turnover in the final 4 1/2 minutes of the period as Minnesota opened a 64-57 lead.