Post-win Blazers: We needed a game like that

Portland gets a boost but won't be taking anything for granted

As the Blazers reach the halfway point of the season Saturday at home against Golden State, they are 17-23 and looking up at just about every team in the Western Conference standings.

They are 12th in the race for eight playoff spots. For a team with such a talent base, this is a shocking development that could hardly have been predicted.

Still, the win at Sacramento on Tuesday brought hope, even though the Blazers blew a 10-minute lead in the final minute of regulation.

'A turnaround game for us,' forward Zach Randolph says. 'It would have been living a nightmare if we had lost after blowing that big lead.'

Coach Maurice Cheeks was buoyed by the win.

'We needed a game like that,' he says. 'It was an example of sticking together and maintaining composure. I think it will bring us together.'

Only one of Portland's next five opponents has a winning record. And that team, Memphis, is hardly intimidating.

'Those are all games we should win, no ifs, ands or buts,' guard Derek Anderson says.

Cheeks cautions against taking anything for granted. Portland has victories over Sacramento, Indiana, Dallas and the L.A. Lakers, but has shown it's capable of losing to anyone.

'I don't want us to be concerned about the opponent,' he says. 'We have to play with some purpose and some fire. Sometimes we go out and just play. (Sacramento) was a quality opponent, and we have done a better job getting ready for those kind of games. But you can't pick and choose.'

The Kings shot .281 from the field in the final three quarters and overtime on Tuesday and .329 for the game. For the Blazers, who were allowing a league-high .470, it was a welcome change.

'We had no energy for the whole game,' Sacramento coach Rick Adelman says. 'I didn't think they did early, either. But their second group came in and did a good job getting them a little lead. They got Rasheed (Wallace) involved, and then Anderson took over, and they deserved to win the game going away.

'I am more disappointed than anything that we didn't take care of the thing in overtime, because we had all the momentum going for us. You win games like that, especially at home. You make stops and you execute.

'We didn't make any stops, and we turned the ball over, and our main guys were the ones doing it. It is disappointing, but it is not surprising when you haven't played well the whole game.'


Adelman says he won't be surprised if Portland gets back into the playoff hunt. 'I talked to Maurice about it before the game,' he says. 'I have watched them play a lot this season. They just haven't finished games, which is surprising, because in Randolph and Rasheed, they have two guys who can make plays for you. Anderson will help them in that regard now. But I am surprised their record is what it is.

'I don't know what is going to happen with Rasheed, if he will stay there or get traded. That situation can change things. But for them to get a win like the one against us, if they can get a couple of more wins and get on a roll É well, anything's possible. In the last half of the (regular season), two or three teams are going to make a push and be in the playoffs. Portland could be one of them.'

In Jeff McInnis' final game as a Blazer, he committed two of the dumbest fouls of the season, both in the act of shooting from 3-point range Ñ against Peja Stojakovic with 31.1 seconds left and Portland ahead 93-87, then against Bobby Jackson with 5.6 seconds remaining and Portland ahead 93-90. Cheeks had ordered intentional fouls, but not in the act of shooting, of course. É With the Blazers ahead -97-94 and five seconds left, Cheeks told his players to intentionally foul again. Then Wallace inexplicably left Brad Miller wide open behind the 3-point line, and the King forward buried the shot to force overtime. É Wallace performed like a franchise player through regulation, totaling 26 points and 15 rebounds, just three shy of his career high. Then he acted like a chump at the start of overtime, fouling out and practically begging for his eighth technical of the season, which he got.

Anderson tweaked his sore back while dunking in the second quarter but played through the pain to finish the game with 29 points, including all 12 Portland points in the extra session. 'I'm just going to have to live with (the pain),' he says. 'It's not going to go away.' É Anderson, on his overtime performance: 'I found my rhythm. It's just confidence. I like passing the ball. People ask me why I don't shoot more. I like finding my teammates and getting into the rhythm of the game. But when it's necessary, I can score any way Ñ 3's, pull-ups, going to the hole, free throws. You have to prove to the coach what you are capable of doing.'

Forward Ruben Patterson has a chance to pull off a rare feat in the NBA Ñ shooting better from the field than from the foul line. He is shooting .546 from the field and .495 from the line. É Patterson has played well lately, though. In his last five games, he has averaged 14.6 points and 6.3 rebounds while shooting .652 from the field. É Damon Stoudamire ranks fourth in the NBA in free-throw percentage at .901, but the veteran point guard has only 71 attempts, or fewer than two a game. His career best is .888 in 2001-02.

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