How many of you wonder, like I do, why the Trail Blazers gave Maurice Cheeks a contract extension? I bet more of you are wondering after Tuesday night.

That was when Cheeks masterminded another Blazer loss, snatching defeat from the tightly clenched jaws of victory.

Portland had a three-point lead over the L.A. Clippers as the clock ticked toward :00 in the Staples Center. The Blazers should have won shortly after a horrible offensive foul call against the Clippers led to two Derek Anderson free throws.

But the Blazers allowed a wide-open 3-point field goal by Eddie House that tied the game with 3.8 seconds left, and they went on to lose in overtime. The play was magnificently executed Ñ the kind of execution and precision we haven't seen in Portland since Mike Dunleavy, the Clippers' coach, departed as the Blazer coach.

But after Damon Stoudamire got picked near the basket by Elton Brand, Dale Davis should have switched out onto House. He did, but not in time to do any good.

The play should never have gotten that far, because the Blazers should have fouled someone.

A few years ago, I wasn't sure it made sense to foul with a three-point lead late in a game. A foul sets up the opponent to make the first free throw, then intentionally miss the second and tip it in. That's very hard to do Ñ but it is doable.

I've come to realize that you absolutely have to foul with fewer than five seconds to go in a game. The NBA simply has too many skilled 3-point shooters. And even with a mediocre -3-point shooter Ñ say, someone at 35 percent Ñthe odds are better that he'll make a shot than that his team will be able to convert three points the hard way.

I understand why Bob Whitsitt fired Dunleavy and brought Cheeks in Ñ it was an effort to appease Rasheed Wallace. That was obvious from the outset.

But it hasn't worked. Wallace has been just as lazy under Cheeks as he was under Dunleavy. And Wallace has taken advantage of Cheeks' buddy-buddy style by not getting to the low post nearly as often as he did when Dunleavy was hounding him to do it.

I don't understand why Cheeks was given an extension. My goodness, it's obvious from watching this team that the coach is not motivating anyone. And he's not outcoaching anyone, either. Never has.

After the Clipper game, he criticized his players for not doing what they were supposed to do on that final play. Maybe they were told to switch all screens. Or told to foul. I'm not sure it matters.

What is worse Ñ that Cheeks didn't tell them to foul or that he did tell them to foul and they didn't bother to carry out his instructions? If these guys aren't listening to him, why is he here?

Contact Dwight Jaynes at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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