MINNEAPOLIS, March 23 (Ticker) --
The Minnesota Timberwolves' inept free-throw shooting cost them fifth place in the Western Conference. Scottie Pippen
scored 17 of his 18 points in the second half and Damon Stoudamire
made two big shots in the final two minutes as the Portland Trail Blazers posted a 108-99 victory over the Timberwolves, who were their own worst enemy.
Minnesota and Portland were tied for fifth place in the West. The Timberwolves seemed be to be on their way to gaining sole possession after shooting 68 percent in the first half, but the Blazers were just as effective after halftime.
Portland rallied from a 13-point deficit in the third quarter and forged an 87-87 tie with 4:25 left on two free throws by Pippen. Kevin Garnett
missed two free throws at the other end and Shawn Kemp
made a layup with 4:01 remaining to put the Blazers ahead for good, 89-87.
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Damon Stoudamire scored nine of his team-high 21 points in the decisive fourth quarter.
Stoudamire nailed a 3-pointer for a 98-92 cushion with 1:38 to go and Dale Davis
made 1-of-2 free throws before Joe Smith
missed a pair for Minnesota.
Stoudamire dished to Kemp for a layup and, after Garnett converted a three-point play, buried a baseline jumper for a 103-95 edge in the final minute.
"In the fourth quarter, Portland got aggressive and we couldn't match it," Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders said. "Then when we got to the line in the fourth, we tensed up and missed."
"We just hung in there and made the big plays," Stoudamire said. "I was just going to keep on shooting. And that's all I'm trying to do out there, trying to make things happen."
The Timberwolves made just 5-of-12 free throws in the fourth quarter and fell into sixth place in the West, three games ahead of Seattle.
Stoudamire scored 21 points to lead seven players in double figures and dished out nine assists. Bonzi Wells
had 15 points and Rasheed Wallace
and Kemp added 12 apiece.
Davis collected 11 points and eight rebounds and Pippen pulled down 11 boards for the Blazers, who held a 46-32 edge on the glass.
Garnett had 23 points and 10 rebounds and Wally Szczerbiak
added 20 and seven as Minnesota lost despite shooting 54 percent (40-of-74).
"We shot the ball well, we didn't get aggressive when they turned the heat up," Saunders said. "We have to continue to work on that instinct from a jump shooting team to taking the ball to the bucket when the pressure is on."
The Timberwolves made just 1-of-9 shots from 3-point range and were only 18-of-28 from the line.
The game was tied, 42-42, midway through the second quarter before Minnesota went on a 15-2 run. Garnett scored the first five points of the burst and Szczerbiak capped it with a dunk for a 57-44 cushion with 27 seconds to go before halftime.
Wells had eight points in the third quarter, helping the Blazers outscore the Timberwolves, 25-14.
"They dictated the tempo and took over the game right there," Sczerbiak said. "We only scored 14 points and that's inexcusable, especially when we scored (57) in the first half."
"All I know is we don't give up," Blazers coach Maurice Cheeks said. "That's the main thing, we continue to play. That's what our team has turned out to be -- a team that wants to win badly. We all knew it was an important game. But it's not a make-or-break game."
Wallace drained a 3-pointer to give Portland a 72-69 edge with 13 seconds left and the teams traded the lead six times in the game's final 11 minutes.