Spurs squash Blazers' attempts at a late rally


SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Early in the third quarter Monday, the San
Antonio Spurs were riding a 29-point lead over the Portland Trail
Blazers and they kicked it into cruise control. Bad idea.

The Blazers went on an 18-4 tear late in the final period to
slash the Spurs' lead to six. But Tim Duncan knocked down a
turnaround jumper and the San Antonio defense held Portland
scoreless the rest of the way in a 99-87 victory.

The game might have been a preview of a first-round playoff
matchup. The Spurs are ranked fourth in the Western Conference,
while Portland fell two games behind fifth-seeded Minnesota.

Duncan led San Antonio with 24 points and eight rebounds. His
only basket of the fourth quarter was a 10-footer over Rasheed
Wallace to put the Spurs up 95-87, with 1:28 left. The field goal
was one of two by the Spurs over the final 9:16.

Steve Smith, a former Trail Blazer, and Jason Hart made four
free throws at the end to cinch the victory.

While Duncan was the offensive star, San Antonio coach Gregg
Popovich heaped praise on the 7-foot forward for throwing a
defensive blanket over Wallace, who scored only one point in the
first half and ended the game with five points on 1-for-13

"He did a good job of getting behind (Wallace) and the bucket
and not fouling him," Popovich said. "They key was to not let
Rasheed get off to a good start."

The 6-foot-11 Wallace leads the Blazers in scoring at nearly 20
points a game.

Smith added 19 points for the Spurs, while David Robinson
contributed 14 points and reserve Malik Rose had 12.

Damon Stoudamire led Portland with 23 points, including a pair
of 3-pointers in the late burst. Reserve Derek Anderson scored 12,
and Erick Barkley and Scottie Pippen each scored 10.

Portland coach Maurice Cheeks said while the rally fell short,
it still made a statement going into the postseason.

"We needed to do something to put some doubt in their mind,"
he said. "We know we can play them well in Portland, but we need
to be confident that we can come in here and play them in San
Antonio, as well."

The Spurs won three of the four regular-season games between the
teams, including both in the Alamodome.

Steve Kerr, a former Spur, said once his ex-teammates piled up a
75-46 lead midway through the third, they figured the game was

"They relaxed and we attacked," he said. "Sometimes a small
swing in momentum can turn into an avalanche. That happens all the
time in the NBA."

The Blazers got frustrated trying to contend with Duncan and
Robinson from the outset, with Dale Davis and Shawn Kemp both
picking up three fouls by the opening minutes of the second

"It seemed like all of the calls were going against them,"
said Robinson. "I know how that feels sometimes, and it's easy to
lose your composure."

A 3-pointer by Anderson cut the Spurs' lead to 25-23. San
Antonio then went on a 15-2 run over the next five minutes,
followed by a 10-4 burst to build a 19-point advantage late in the

Stoudamire sparked an 8-2 string with a 22-footer and a driving
layin to trim the deficit to 13, but Smith sneaked in a 3-pointer
just ahead of the time clock with three seconds left in the half to
make the score 55-39.

Stoudamire connected on seven of his 11 shots in the first half
for 15 points. The rest of the Blazers managed only eight baskets
on 30 attempts (27 percent), while the Spurs shot 58 percent from
the floor.

Game notes
San Antonio has won 11 in a row at home, and is 30-9 in the
Alamodome this season with two left to play. ... Robinson now has
9,974 career rebounds. ... Duncan was selected Western Conference
player of the week ending April 7 after averaging 28 points, 15
rebounds and six assists in three games. It was the third time in
the past four weeks he has won the honor and the sixth time this
season. ... Duncan also has been player of the month in December
and March. ... Smith outscored Anderson and Kerr, the players he
was traded for over the summer, by a margin of 19-18. ... Portland
amassed three technical fouls on the night: one each by Pippen,
Davis and coach Cheeks.