Trail Blazers 88, 76ers 82
PHILADELPHIA (AP)—Portland’s playoff streak may not end at 21 straight seasons after all—not with the way the Trail Blazers are playing lately.
The surging Blazers (39-36) have won nine of their last 12 games and moved into a tie with the Utah Jazz for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
“We’re still climbing uphill,” coach Maurice Cheeks said. “When you are trying to get into that eighth slot, you can’t afford to let games slip away. That’s the thing that we keep talking about and harping on—we can’t afford to let games slip away.”
“We know we’ve got to win these games and just stay focused and play hard,” Randolph said. “It’s about chemistry anywhere you go. We know we can’t lose. We’re all just working together.”
Miles, acquired in a midseason deal, had his second straight strong game for the Blazers. He scored eight points in the fourth quarter, including a turnaround jumper and a driving dunk that both times pushed the lead back to four.
A day after the Trail Blazers hit a season-high 61 percent of their shots in a win over Boston, Portland shot 49 percent. Miles, who scored 31 against the Celtics, is 20-for-30 from the floor in the last two games.
“Coach Cheeks keeps telling me I can be a great player, so that’s what I’m trying to be,” Miles said.
The Sixers played again without Allen Iverson, out for the rest of the season with a knee injury. Willie Green led Philadelphia with a career-best 22 points, Kenny Thomas had 14 points and 12 rebounds, and Samuel Dalembert had 11 points and a career-high 19 boards.
The Trail Blazers held a 13-point lead midway through the third quarter, when the Sixers went on a 10-3 run to pull within three.
Green, the rookie guard getting more playing time in Iverson’s absence, tied the game at 76-all when he slammed home a Thomas miss that brought a rise out of the crowd and the Sixers’ bench.
“They were just giving me the ball and I was trying to make plays, trying to make something happen,” Green said. “My confidence is just rising and rising right now.”
Portland, though, went ahead on a free throw, then a three-point play by former Sixer Theo Ratliff. Miles sealed the win with a couple of free throws in the waning seconds.
Ratliff had 14 points, six rebounds and six blocked shots. Ratliff was acquired in February in a deal with Atlanta and has been the shot-blocking force in the paint the Trail Blazers needed, leading the league with a 5.4 average.
Ratliff has blocked at least six shots in the last four games.
“His presence has been huge for us,” Cheeks said. “He gives us a big presence in the middle that we didn’t have before.”
The Sixers already slim playoff hopes took another hit, pushing them 2 1/2 games behind Boston for eighth place in the Eastern Conference. ^Notes: Cheeks, a former 76ers All-Star, was unhappy to hear his name linked to the Sixers’ job, especially since he’s signed through the 2005-06 season, and Chris Ford holds the interim tag in Philly. “I think it’s a little uncomfortable to always hear our names mentioned in some light,” Cheeks said. … Natalie Gilbert got another chance with the national anthem and this time she remembered the words. Last spring, Gilbert, then 13, forgot the words and froze before Game 3 of the Blazers’ first-round playoff series against Dallas. Cheeks walked to her side and helped her through by singing the words. … Eagles WR Terrell Owens, wearing sunglasses, received a huge ovation when he arrived late in the first quarter. He was presented with a 76ers jersey and waved to the crowd. … Portland F Ruben Patterson left in the second quarterwith a sore right knee and did not return.