Trail Blazers 92, Timberwolves 79

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP)—The impromptu, unauthorized drug test is now merely recent history. Damon Stoudamire’s latest sample was a display on how to get the Portland Trail Blazers back into the playoffs.

Stoudamire, who drew attention earlier this week for submitting to a drug test with a newspaper columnist, had 28 points Wednesday night in the Portland Trail Blazers’ 92-79 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“That’s what I want for the rest of the season, to go out there and make things happen,” said Stoudamire, who made six of 10 3-point attempts.

“I felt like Damon was extra aggressive tonight,” said Minnesota’s Kevin Garnett, who scored 20. “It was a big difference.”

It was Portland’s second win in its last seven games and moved the Blazers (31-33) one game closer to eighth-place Denver (34-32) and ninth-place Utah (34-33) for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

The Timberwolves, with the league’s third-best record, have lost three of their last four. They were playing the second of back-to-back road games after defeating Seattle on Tuesday night.

Portland went ahead 68-54 early in the fourth quarter on Shareef Abdur-Rahim’s fadeaway jumper. Two straight 3-pointers from Stoudamire extended the lead to 78-59.

Zach Randolph, back in the starting lineup after serving a one-game NBA suspension for taking a swing at Utah’s Raja Bell last Saturday, had 18 points and 11 rebounds.

Randolph’s suspension was the latest hurdle for the Blazers, who are in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time in 22 seasons. Their current streak of 21 postseason appearances is an active NBA record.

Further distractions for the Blazers have come in the wake of Stoudamire’s drug test for a columnist from The Oregonian. The NBA Players Association said the team violated the collective bargaining agreement when coach Maurice Cheeks witnessed the test late last week.

The union did not say whether it would take further action. Stoudamire, who has been arrested three times on marijuana charges but has voluntarily gone through treatment, passed the test.

“I’m just really happy that we won,” Stoudamire said. “I just feel that nothing matters except winning the game.”

Stoudamire got a standing ovation from the crowd of 15,456 at the Rose Garden as he came off the court.

“He deserved the ovation he got tonight,” Cheeks said. “I’ve said this all along: For us to be successful, he has to have a big game.”

The Timberwolves jumped out to a 9-0 lead, a run that ended when Stoudamire scored on a long jumper with 8:25 left in the first quarter to spark a 10-4 run.

When the Blazers went up 40-31 on Abdur-Rahim’s layup, teammate Ruben Patterson raised his arms in celebration. Portland led 43-33 at the half.

“We pride ourselves on team defense and when a point guard (Stoudamire) is able to get in there and dismantle or rattle your whole team defense, it’s kindof bothersome,” Garnett said.

Notes

Randolph’s suspension left Stoudamire as the only Portland player to appear in all 63 games this season. … The Blazers and the Timberwolves split their two other games this season, with the home team winning each time. … Theo Ratliff had five blocked shots for the Blazers, prompting this assessment from coach Cheeks: “His impact is major. Sometimes you don’t realize the importance of a blocked shot. When Theo blocks a shot it opens something up forus.”

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Minnesota
S. Cassell S. Cassell
6-16,  15 Pts
8 Rebs, 9 Assists
 Portland
D. Stoudamire D. Stoudamire
11-19,  28 Pts
5 Rebs, 7 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists