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Minus coach, flat Rockets fall in Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Derek Anderson had a perfect night. He made his shots, and the Portland Trail Blazers got another win.

Anderson had 21 points and seven assists in Portland's 94-83
victory over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night.

"Sometimes I only make four shots. But you don't worry about
your shots -- you worry about ways of winning,'' Anderson said.
"Some nights are your night. When teammates give me shots like
that I've got to make them.''

The start of the game was delayed for a little more than 30
minutes for President Bush's televised address announcing the
military action in Iraq.

The seriousness of the moment temporarily quieted the sellout
crowd, many of whom had come to see Yao Ming, Houston's 7-foot-5
rookie center.

Zach Randolph added 14 points for the Trail Blazers, who have
won five of their last seven. Houston remained tied with Phoenix
for eighth place in the West.

"Turnovers, turnovers,'' explained Rockets guard Steve Francis.
"That was the complete difference. Look at how many times I lost
the ball myself, lost the ball just going out of bounds or
something, and other guys lost the ball.

"It wasn't anything that the other guys were doing.''

The Rockets were again without coach Rudy Tomjanovich, resting
in Houston after doctors discovered a cancerous tumor on his
bladder lining.

The Blazers led by as many as 14 points in the first half, but
briefly lost the edge in the third quarter. The Rockets closed to
61-59 on Eddie Griffin's 3-pointer, then went up 62-61 on Cuttino
Mobley's layup and free throw.

But the Blazers quickly regained the lead, and Anderson's
3-pointer at the buzzer made it 72-66. Portland never trailed
again.

Francis was held to 17 points and six assists.

After the Blazers built a healthy lead in the first half,
Francis beat Damon Stoudamire with a 3-pointer to narrow it to
41-37 with 22 seconds left. Stoudamire responded with a 22-foot
jumper to make it 47-37 for the Blazers at the half.

Tomjanovich also missed Tuesday night's game against Seattle.
The 54-year-old coach had never before missed a game in 11-plus
seasons on the bench.

Rockets assistant Larry Smith stood in for Tomjanovich, expected
to rejoin the team sometime during its current five-game road trip.

Stoudamire, who had 13 points and eight assists, has replaced
guard Scottie Pippen in Portland's starting lineup for the past
five games.

Pippen, the team's acknowledged leader, was placed on the
injured list Wednesday after undergoing surgery the day before to
relieve swelling in his left knee. The 16-year veteran was expected
to miss about three weeks.

"We change a little bit because Scottie goes to the post a
little bit, but Damon's still capable of leading us,'' Anderson
said.

Game notes
To replace Pippen, the Trail Blazers activated Charles
Smith, a 6-foot-4 guard who was placed on the injured list on Oct.
28 with a sore left hip. Smith, a four-year veteran, was acquired
from San Antonio in the offseason along with guard Antonio Daniels
and Amal McCaskill for Erick Barkley, Steve Kerr and a draft pick.
Smith, who had not played a regular-season game with the Blazers,
came in with just under than a minute left. ... Blazers forward
Rasheed Wallace and Stoudamire were scheduled to appear in Lewis
County District Court in Washington state on Thursday on
misdemeanor marijuana possession charges stemming from a traffic
stop Nov. 22.

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