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Red-hot Blazers 18-3 since All-Star break

3/24/2002

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Portland Trail Blazers are climbing the
Western Conference ladder, passing the Minnesota Timberwolves along
the way.

Damon Stoudamire scored 21 points, and Scottie Pippen added 18 -- 13 in the fourth quarter -- as the Trail Blazers beat Minnesota
108-99 Saturday night, overtaking the Timberwolves for fifth place in the
Western Conference standings.

"We're warriors, we're soldiers," Stoudamire said. "We've
fought ourselves out of a big hole."

That's true of Saturday night's game, and the whole season.

The Blazers, a league-best 18-3 since the All-Star break,
trailed by 10 at the half but got back into it by taking advantage
of a balanced scoring attack and cold shooting by the Timberwolves.
Minnesota shot 5-for-13 from the foul line in the fourth quarter,
while Portland went 16-for-18.

Felipe Lopez hit a 3-pointer to put the Wolves up 87-85 with
4:40 to go.

But Pippen hit two free throws, and Shawn Kemp, who had eight
points in the fourth, made a layup to put the Blazers in front for
good.

Pippen, who had an otherwise quiet night, stepped us his play
and his leadership in the game's final minutes, pulling Rasheed
Wallace and Bonzi Wells away from arguing with the officials.
Wallace and Wells already had one technical foul each.

"We learned from the past," Pippen said. "We're not going to
get back in games yelling at the officials. We got back into it by
believing in one another."

Wally Szczerbiak, who didn't have much trouble scoring on Pippen
early, finished with 20 points. He said Pippen's experience paid
off for the Blazers down the stretch.

"He's just uncanny," Szczerbiak said. "He does good things
when his team needs it. He got a couple of things going in the
fourth quarter and we didn't respond."

Joe Smith's two free throws at 2:01 pulled the Wolves to 95-92,
but Stoudamire deflated Minnesota with a 3-pointer 13 seconds
later.

Trailing 57-47 at the half, Portland outscored Minnesota 25-14
in the third quarter. Wells opened with six straight points to
spark an 11-2 run. Dale Davis hit a jumper at 6:07 to pull the
Blazers to 59-58.

The Wolves got a couple of short jumpers from Rasho Nesterovic
to extend Minnesota's lead to 65-60.

But the Blazers responded with baskets from Stoudamire, Derek
Anderson and Wells. Wallace's fourth 3-pointer gave Portland a
72-69 lead with 13.1 seconds left in the third.

"We don't give up. We continue to play. This team wants to win
so badly," Blazers coach Maurice Cheeks said.

Kevin Garnett had 23 points to lead the Timberwolves, who have
lost eight of 10, including six of their last seven at home -- their
worst home stretch since the 1995-96 season.

"We've got to stay aggressive, and that means going to the
basket," a dejected Garnett said.

Minnesota's offense was clicking early. Chauncey Billups hit a
couple of jumpers and completed a three-point play, after drawing a
foul from Wells, to put the Wolves up 17-8.

The Wolves closed out the half on a 15-5 run.

Game notes
The Blazers assured themselves of their 13th consecutive
winning season. ... Wallace was slapped with his league-leading
24th technical foul with 7:48 left in the first quarter for arguing
a foul call. ... The Blazers are 21-3 this season when Wallace
scores at least 23 points. They're 22-22 when he doesn't.