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Timberwolves drop three of last four

3/11/2004

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- The impromptu, unauthorized drug test is
now merely recent history. Damon Stoudamire's latest sample was a
display on how to get the Portland Trail Blazers back into the
playoffs.

Stoudamire, who drew attention earlier this week for submitting
to a drug test with a newspaper columnist, had 28 points Wednesday
night in the Portland Trail Blazers' 92-79 victory over the
Minnesota Timberwolves.

"That's what I want for the rest of the season, to go out there
and make things happen," said Stoudamire, who made six of 10
3-point attempts.

"I felt like Damon was extra aggressive tonight," said
Minnesota's Kevin Garnett, who scored 20. "It was a big
difference."

It was Portland's second win in its last seven games and moved
the Blazers (31-33) one game closer to eighth-place Denver (34-32)
and ninth-place Utah (34-33) for the final playoff spot in the
Western Conference.

The Timberwolves, with the league's third-best record, have lost
three of their last four. They were playing the second of
back-to-back road games after defeating Seattle on Tuesday night.

Portland went ahead 68-54 early in the fourth quarter on Shareef
Abdur-Rahim's fadeaway jumper. Two straight 3-pointers from
Stoudamire extended the lead to 78-59.

Zach Randolph, back in the starting lineup after serving a
one-game NBA suspension for taking a swing at Utah's Raja Bell last
Saturday, had 18 points and 11 rebounds.

Randolph's suspension was the latest hurdle for the Blazers, who
are in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time in 22
seasons. Their current streak of 21 postseason appearances is an
active NBA record.

Further distractions for the Blazers have come in the wake of
Stoudamire's drug test for a columnist from The Oregonian. The NBA
Players Association said the team violated the collective
bargaining agreement when coach Maurice Cheeks witnessed the test
late last week.

The union did not say whether it would take further action.
Stoudamire, who has been arrested three times on marijuana charges
but has voluntarily gone through treatment, passed the test.

"I'm just really happy that we won," Stoudamire said. "I just
feel that nothing matters except winning the game."

Stoudamire got a standing ovation from the crowd of 15,456 at
the Rose Garden as he came off the court.

"He deserved the ovation he got tonight," Cheeks said. "I've
said this all along: For us to be successful, he has to have a big
game."

The Timberwolves jumped out to a 9-0 lead, a run that ended when
Stoudamire scored on a long jumper with 8:25 left in the first
quarter to spark a 10-4 run.

When the Blazers went up 40-31 on Abdur-Rahim's layup, teammate
Ruben Patterson raised his arms in celebration. Portland led 43-33
at the half.

"We pride ourselves on team defense and when a point guard
(Stoudamire) is able to get in there and dismantle or rattle your
whole team defense, it's kind of bothersome," Garnett said.

Game notes
Randolph's suspension left Stoudamire as the only Portland
player to appear in all 63 games this season. ... The Blazers and
the Timberwolves split their two other games this season, with the
home team winning each time. ... Theo Ratliff had five blocked
shots for the Blazers, prompting this assessment from coach Cheeks:
"His impact is major. Sometimes you don't realize the importance
of a blocked shot. When Theo blocks a shot it opens something up
for us."