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Portland blows big first-half lead in losing at Memphis

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- The Portland Trail Blazers had their
chances for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs
hurt by the Memphis Grizzlies.

Portland squandered a 20-point, first-half lead, and lost 96-93
to the Grizzlies on Friday night.

The defeat, coupled with Minnesota's 106-90 victory over the Los
Angeles Clippers, left the Timberwolves in the Western Conference's
fourth spot, and dropped Portland into a tie with the idle Los
Angeles Lakers for fifth. Portland and the Lakers play Sunday.

''It damaged our chances for home-court advantage,'' Portland
coach Maurice Cheeks said. ''It definitely put a dent in our
chances.''

Stromile Swift and Pau Gasol led five Memphis players in double
figures. Swift had 19 points and 11 rebounds. Gasol had 18 points
and 10 rebounds.

The Grizzlies overcame career bests of 31 points and 20 rebounds
by Portland's Zach Randolph, who had played sparingly since serving
a two-game team suspension for punching teammate Ruben Patterson.
Randolph, starting for an injured Dale Davis, connected on 13 of 25
shots.

''It was my career night, but it would have looked better if we
had won,'' Randolph said. ''I got a chance. The last two games, I
played nine and 11 minutes. Tonight, I got 39 minutes. I just want
to get minutes. I knew I was going to get a chance to play a lot.''

Jason Williams added 15 points and 12 assists, and Wesley Person
and Shane Battier had 13 points each for the Grizzlies.

''We had 10 guys who made major contributions,'' Memphis coach
Hubie Brown said. ''To us, this was a team that we needed to win
against and a good team to beat.''

Bonzi Wells added 24 points and Rasheed Wallace 19 for the Trail
Blazers.

Memphis didn't seal the game until Person grabbed a miss with
about six seconds left and was fouled. He converted both free
throws with 3.2 seconds left for the final margin.

Derek Anderson's 3-point try for Portland with less than a
second left was short.

Portland led 89-87 on a dunk by Arvydas Sabonis with just less than five minutes left. But Williams responded with a 3-pointer from the
top of the key, and Memphis never trailed thereafter.

The Trail Blazers, relying on strength inside, took a 54-47 lead
at the break after leading by as many as 20 points in the first
half.

Randolph, starting his first game since Jan. 29, dominated the
interior. With only a minute gone in the second quarter, the
second-year player from Michigan State had a double-double. By
halftime, he matched his career high, leading Portland with 21
points.

''It was effort,'' Battier said of the Grizzlies' first-half
performance. ''Zach Randolph is a bull, and he played very
physical. We didn't match his physical play, and the second half we
did.''

The Trail Blazers had 30 points in the paint, compared to 14 for
the Grizzlies, while Portland had a 29-17 advantage on the boards,
leading to 19 second-chance points in the first half.

But Memphis was able to complete the comeback from 20 down with
a flurry to open the second half. Behind Battier, Memphis pulled
even, and Williams' two free throws with just more than six minutes to
play in the quarter gave the Grizzlies their first lead, 64-62,
since the opening minutes.

The Grizzlies held a 79-75 lead entering the final period.

Game notes
Davis did not dress because of a sore back, marking only
the second game he hasn't started this season for the Trail
Blazers. Randolph made his eighth start of the season. ... Antonio
Daniels also sat out the game recovering from dental surgery. ...
The Grizzlies avoided being swept by Portland. The Trail Blazers
won three of four games this season. Portland leads the overall
series 21-10. ...Gasol had his fifth double-double in the past six
games and has 30 on the season. ... Memphis is 20-19 at home this
season. ...Battier has scored in double figures in four consecutive games. ...The 20-point comeback by the Grizzlies was the largest of
the season and third largest in franchise history.

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