PORTLAND, Ore, March 16 (Ticker) --
Given a rare start, Shawn Kemp
made the most of it.
Kemp had season highs of 21 points and 14 rebounds and the Portland Trail Blazers used a tremendous defensive effort in the second half to cruise to a 95-80 victory over the Washington Wizards, their eighth straight home win.
Since arriving in Portland prior to last season, Kemp has been relegated to the bench behind star forwards Rasheed Wallace
, Scottie Pippen
and Dale Davis
. He has not helped himself by carrying too much weight and drawing suspensions each of the last two seasons for violating the NBA's anti-drug policy.
"He's just been waiting for the opportunity to get out there," Pippen said. "He's still a guy who can get double-doubles in this league."
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Rasheed Wallace and the Blazers put forth a tremendous defensive effort in the second half.
But with Davis suspended for committing a flagrant foul against Dallas on Thursday, the 6-10 Kemp was inserted as the starting center and responded with his finest game of the season.
"The start could have very well went to Dud (Chris Dudley)
and I would have been all right with that," Kemp said. "But if it did come to me, I had told myself last night when I saw that Dale was suspended that I've got to take advantage of this opportunity."
"I told him before the game to just relax and have fun out there but that we needed from him the rebounding that Dale usually gives us," Portland coach Maurice Cheeks said.
Kemp played his best in the first half, collecting 13 points and 10 boards and keeping his struggling team in the game. Overall, he made 8-of-15 shots and grabbed nine offensive rebounds in 43 minutes, 19 more than he had played in any game this season.
"The main thing I wanted to do was make myself known on the boards," Kemp said. "I haven't played 43 minutes in a while, but I'll be trying to do the same thing against Boston on Monday. We really needed a presence to rebound the ball tonight."
"With Dale suspended, we weren't really worried because we know what type of player Kemp was going to bring to the game," Blazers guard Bonzi Wells
The Wizards shot 59 percent (20-of-34) from the field in the first half, opening a 51-48 lead. But they were entirely shut down in the second half, scoring just 29 points as they succumbed to the always-improving defense of the Trail Blazers.
Portland forced a season-high 24 turnovers and allowed just 11 points in its best defensive third quarter of the season.
"Our defense opened it up for us in the second half," Cheeks said. "That's the thing we've preached all season -- that our defense would get us easy baskets."
"They are rangy, quick, athletic and Scottie leads the way," Wizards coach Doug Collins said. "Championship teams only need to play inferior teams hard for 12 minutes and that's what they did tonight." Rasheed Wallace
scored 25 points and Pippen handed out a career-high 15 assists for Portland (40-25), which has won 14 of its last 15 games to move into a tie with Minnesota for fifth place in the Western Conference. Chris Whitney
scored 15 points and Courtney Alexander
added 14 for the Wizards, who dropped to 1-2 on their seven-game road trip. They have lost seven of their last eight games and are fading fast in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
A 3-pointer by Whitney gave Washington a 56-52 lead with 8:35 left in the third quarter before Portland took the lead for good with 10 straight points. Wells scored six, including a dunk that made it 62-56 with 6:22 to go.
Wallace scored nine points in a 13-2 surge that closed the quarter and gave the Blazers a 77-62 lead. In the third period, Washington shot 5-of-18 and committed 10 turnovers.
"We need to stop making mental mistakes and take care of the ball," Alexander said.
Wells scored 22 points for the Blazers, who shot 54 percent (39-of-72) and held a 33-24 edge on the boards. Tyrone Nesby
and rookie Kwame Brown
each scored 11 points for the Wizards, who shot 44 percent (29-of-66).