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Blazers to face Dallas – series starts Saturday

Portland falls at Golden State in regular-season finale
by: JAIME VALDEZ The Trail Blazers and Dallas Mavericks split four regular-season games, but Portland easily won 104-96 April 3 at the Rose Garden, where guards Rudy Fernandez (left) and Jason Terry of the Mavs tangled for the ball.

OAKLAND - The Trail Blazers got their regulars some rest and the first-round playoff matchup they wanted Wednesday night - but the Los Angeles Lakers made them sweat it.

Portland, which had already clinched the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference, fell 110-86 at Golden State while resting five of its top eight players.

The Blazers, who were to face the No. 3 seed in the first round, entered the final day of the regular season not knowing whether the Lakers, Dallas or Oklahoma City would be their opponent.

After an Oklahoma City loss and Dallas win earlier in the day, the Lakers needed to win at Sacramento to tie up the No. 2 seed in the West. They blew a 20-point, fourth-quarter lead and fell behind the Kings by three points with nine seconds to go. Kobe Bryant's 3-pointer with six seconds left forced overtime, though, and the Lakers escaped with a 116-108 victory in the extra session.

That dropped Dallas into the third seed and made the Mavericks Portland's first-round opponent, with the first two games of the best-of-seven series at Dallas Saturday and Tuesday. The teams split their four regular-season meetings, but the Blazers won the last two times, both at the Rose Garden.

On Wednesday night, Portland coach Nate McMillan sat out LaMarcus Aldridge, Gerald Wallace, Marcus Camby, Nicolas Batum and Brandon Roy to give them rest going into the playoffs.

That left Wesley Matthews and Andre Miller in the lineup with Rudy Fernandez, Chris Johnson and Earl Barron.

Portland hung in for a half, trailing 51-45 at the break. The Warriors - going with all their regulars except Monta Ellis, who sat out with a concussion - gradually pulled away in the second half.

McMillan gave season high minutes to Chris Johnson (40), Armon Johnson (35) and Luke Babbitt (33). Barron, signed earlier this week as an insurance big man, played 37 minutes.

'We wanted to get some work in, allow some of our (other) guys to play,' McMillan said. 'They got good minutes. We saw were able to sit out some guys with injuries and soreness. now we can get prepared for this weekend.'

In the playoffs, McMillan said, 'we know we're going to go with our normal rotation, but you never know when foul trouble or injuries could happen in a playoff game. I told our guys, 'You are that close to getting out on the floor.' The important thing was for them to play hard, try to learn the system and get some time out on the floor.'

Patty Mills came off the bench for a career-high 23 points in 29 minutes. Mills had played his college ball at Saint Mary's in nearby Moraga.

'Tonight was an opportunity for him to run the team,' McMillan said. 'He did a nice job getting us into our tempo, and he made some shots.'

NOTES - Reggie Williams, starting in place of Ellis, led Golden State with 28 points, sevenn rebounds and five assists, playing all 48 minutes. ... The Warriors (36-46) won the season series with the Blazers 3-1. 'They're a talented team,' McMillan said. 'They can flat-out score. They're a tough matchup for us. It's hard for us to guard speed.' ... Portland shot .337 from the field, its second-worst markmanship of the season. ... Matthews scored 18 points in his 24 minutes. Miller played only seven minutes, scoring four points. ... In his first start, rookie Chris Johnson scored eight points and grabbed 13 rebounds but made only 1 of 8 shots from the field. ... Barron was 2 for 10 from the field, finishing with five points and 13 boards. ... Babbitt had no luck shooting, either, going 4 for 17 while getting his first double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds. ... Armon Johnson matched his season high with 12 points on 5-for-12 shooting. ... Portland had 19 turnovers, including five by Armon Johnson.

DALLAS VS. PORTLAND

(all PT)

Game 1 - at Dallas, 6:30 p.m. Saturday, KGW/ESPN

Game 2 - at Dallas, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, KGW/TNT

Game 3 - at Portland, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 21, KGW/TNT

Game 4 - at Portland, 2 p.m. Saturday, April 23, KGW/TNT

Game 5 - at Dallas, time TBD Monday, April 25, TV TBD

Game 6 - at Portland, time TBD Thursday, April 28, TB TBD

Game 7 - at Dallas, time TBD Saturday, April 30, TV TBD

(best-of-seven series; games 5-7 if necessary)