Portland (33-33) at Milwaukee (34-32)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Milwaukee, WI
Temp: 28° F
  • Game info: 8:00 pm EST Tue Mar 16, 2004
Preview | Box Score | Recap

After three wins over the Western Conference’s top teams, the Portland Trail Blazers face perhaps a bigger challenge—the mediocre Milwaukee Bucks.

The surging Trail Blazers, playing their best basketball of the season, seek their first win over the Bucks in more than two years.

Portland, trying to claw its way into the playoff picture, certainly seems deserving of a postseason spot after going 3-0 against the Minnesota Timberwolves and Sacramento Kings in the last week.

The Trail Blazers defeated the Timberwolves 92-79 on Wednesday, the Kings 83-81 on Friday, and closed the weekend with a 92-83 win over Minnesota on Sunday.

The only team ahead of the Minnesota (46-21) in the West standings is Sacramento (49-17). Portland trails the Denver Nuggets by two games for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.

“We didn’t just beat the doormats of this league. We just beat the heavyweights,” Trail Blazers guard Damon Stoudamire said. “If we don’t have a lot of confidence right now, I don’t know what it’s going to take. I feel our chances in these last 16 games are just as good as anybody’s.”

Portland, though, has lost three straight to Milwaukee. The Trail Blazers’ last win over the Bucks came on March 2, 2002, 104-103 in overtime at Milwaukee.

Portland won Sunday after Minnesota’s Sam Cassell guaranteed a Timberwolves win.

“You know what’s guaranteed?” Trail Blazers forward Dale Davis said. “You see us in a fight with a bear, you better help the bear.”

Zach Randolph had 20 points and 11 rebounds, and Derek Anderson scored 21 points to lead the Trail Blazers.

As in Wednesday’s game, Theo Ratliff asserted himself inside by blocking six shots and altering others. The Blazers center also had 10 rebounds. Portland had 13 blocked shots in the game.

Ratliff had five blocks in the last game against Minnesota and eight blocked shots in Friday’s win against Sacramento.

Milwaukee blew a 26-point lead in a 103-100 loss to the New York Knicks on Sunday.

The Bucks have allowed their opponents to score at least 102 points in 14 of their last 19 games, including Friday’s 117-111 loss to Denver.

“Transition (defense) has been a serious issue with us and we have to definitely address it,” Milwaukee coach Terry Porter said.

Brian Skinner had 21 points, Michael Redd 19, Keith Van Horn 18, Joe Smith 15 and Damon Jones 12 for the Bucks.

Milwaukee has lost two straight and five of six. The Bucks are ending a four-game homestand.

STANDINGS (through March 14): Trail Blazers - 3rd place, 16 GB, Pacific Division. Bucks - 4th place, 15 GB, Central Division.

PROBABLE STARTERS: Trail Blazers - F Darius Miles, F Randolph, C Ratliff, G Anderson, G Stoudamire. Bucks - F Smith, F Van Horn, C Skinner, G Jones, G Redd.

TEAM LEADERS: Trail Blazers - Randolph, 20.4 ppg and 10.8 rpg; Stoudamire, 6.2 apg. Bucks - Redd, 21.9 ppg; Smith, 8.7 rpg; Ford, 6.5 apg.

SEASON SERIES: Bucks, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Dec. 16; Bucks, 106-99. At Portland, Ore., the Bucks trailed by as many as 10 points in the first half, then led by as many as 11 in the second.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Trail Blazers - 12-21 on the road; Bucks - 24-10 at home.

INJURIES: Trail Blazers - C Vladimir Stepania (knee); F Travis Outlaw (knee). Bucks - G T.J. Ford (back).

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