With virtually no chance of making the postseason now, the hapless Blazers hope to just avoid their fifth straight defeat when they visit Dunleavy and the Los Angeles Clippers.
Dunleavy coached Portland from 1997-2001, posting a 190-106 (.642) record and leading the Blazers to four straight playoffs. He was named NBA Coach of the Year in 1999 after helping them to a first place finish in the Pacific Division in the strike-shortened season when they made the Western Conference Finals and lost in seven games.
Considered to be postseason contenders at the start of this season, the Blazers instead sunk to one of their worst records in nearly three decades. After dropping 11 games below .500, Portland fired head coach Maurice Cheeks, Dunleavy’s successor, on March 2.
In a clear effort at rebuilding, the Blazers named director of player personnel Kevin Pritchard the interim coach to develop the team’s young talent.
Rookies Viktor Khryapa had a season-high 21 points on 9-of-10 shooting and Sebastian Telfair added 16 but the Blazers lost their fourth straight game and 10th of the last 11, 97-92 to the Orlando Magic Saturday.
“I told them we have to keep plugging away,” said Pritchard, who is 1-8 since taking over. “I really wanted to win for them. I wanted the younger players who’ve been putting out such good effort to feel they were part of a win.”
Damon Stoudamire had 13 points and eight assists for Portland, which has lost leading scorer and rebounder Zach Randolph for the season with a knee injury. The Blazers are in 12th place in the West, 11 1/2 games behind the Denver Nuggets for the eighth and final playoff spot with 18 games left.
The Clippers look to bounce back from a 111-107 overtime loss to the Sacramento Kings on Saturday. Corey Maggette had 28 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists for the Clippers, who trail Denver by 6 1/2 games for the final playoff spot with 16 games remaining.
Elton Brand scored 22 points after getting only six in Friday’s 115-96 loss at Denver—which ended his string of 39 consecutive games in double figures.
The Clippers, who have lost three of their last five games, were without Marko Jaric. The 6-foot-7 point guard missed his third straight game because of a hip pointer.
Portland leads the all-time series 122-51, including a 47-39 edge in Los Angeles, but has lost four straight and seven of the last nine games at the Staples Center.