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Blazers move a half-game behind Jazz for No. 8

4/7/2004

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The game should have been important to both
the Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Lakers.

Only the Blazers played like it.

Damon Stoudamire scored 24 points, and Zach Randolph had 22
points, nine rebounds and five assists Tuesday night as the Blazers
defeated the Lakers 91-80 to give their playoff hopes a boost.

The Blazers (40-37) won for the 10th time in 14 games to move
within a half-game of Utah for the eighth and final Western
Conference playoff berth. Portland and Denver are tied for ninth
place.

"This was a high-level game for us from start to finish,"
Blazers coach Maurice Cheeks said.

"We just know how important these games are," Randolph said.
"This is a big momentum boost for us, to beat one of the best
teams."

The Lakers sure didn't fit that description in this game. The
loss was their second straight following an 11-game winning streak,
and put a damper on their hopes of gaining the conference's top
seed in the playoffs.

The Lakers (53-25) are in third place in the West, 1{ games
behind Sacramento, one game behind Minnesota and a half-game ahead
of fourth-place San Antonio.

The Lakers and Timberwolves have four games left; the Kings and
Spurs five.

"Tonight was terrible -- I can't explain it," Karl Malone said.

"I've seen prettier games -- I've definitely seen prettier
games," Rick Fox said. "Our incentive to win right now is no
different than the Portland Trail Blazers' -- even though they're
fighting for the eighth spot."

Even though the Lakers played one of their worst games of the
season, they were within six points early in the fourth quarter.
But Shareef Abdur-Rahim scored six points and Stoudamire added five
during an 11-0 run that gave the Blazers an 82-65 lead with 6{
minutes remaining to put the game out of reach.

Derek Anderson had 17 points, nine rebounds and eight assists,
and Darius Miles added 14 points for the Blazers, who shot 50
percent.

"We needed this -- it's definitely a game that we needed,"
Anderson said. "Every game, we need. It's like the playoffs.
They're in. If you're not in, you can't do anything. We needed it
more than they did."

Shaquille O'Neal led the Lakers with 17 points and 12 rebounds,
but shot 3-of-10 from the foul line. Kobe Bryant had 12 points, six
rebounds and eight assists, shooting 5-of-23.

"It was just one of those nights," Bryant said. "The ball was
slipping through our hands. We were missing a lot of easy shots. We
just have to put this behind us."

Gary Payton also had 12 points and Malone and Fox added 11 each
for the Lakers, who shot 39.7 percent.

Cheeks said the Blazers didn't do anything special defensively
on Bryant.

"Kobe just had a tough night," Cheeks said. "Those things are
going to happen. We tried to challenge his shots. For the most
part, I think he just an off night."

Randolph scored four points during an 8-0 run that gave the
Blazers a 65-48 lead midway through the third quarter. Fox,
averaging 4.7 points, then scored eight during a 14-6 run to finish
the period, trimming Portland's lead to nine.

Stoudamire made three 3-pointers, Randolph added six points and
Miles and Dale Davis scored four each during a 25-2 run that gave
the Blazers a 33-15 lead, prompting boos from the home crowd and
putting the Blazers ahead for good.

It was 37-21 entering the second period. The Blazers' 37 points
were the most they've scored in a first quarter this season and the
most the Lakers have allowed in an opening period.

The Blazers led 51-40 at halftime.

Game notes
Portland is in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for the
first time since 1982. The Blazers' streak of 21 straight
postseason appearances is the second-longest in NBA history and the
second-longest active streak in major league sports. The St. Louis
Blues have appeared in the NHL playoffs 25 straight years. ...
Lakers coach Phil Jackson hopes Kareem Rush (injured right foot)
and Horace Grant (hip flexor strain) will be ready to come off the
injured list and play Friday night against Memphis. Grant sounded
less optimistic. "I'm like this," he said, fingers crossed on
both hands. "I did a little bit yesterday. It went well. (But) I
woke up, it was pretty sore." He said he felt better after
stretching, but didn't do any work Tuesday. ... The Lakers play two
of their last four games at home, with road games Sunday at
Sacramento and Wednesday at Portland. ... The Blazers play three of
their last five at home, but making the playoffs figures to be
tough considering they play the Lakers, at Denver, and twice
against streaking San Antonio.