Trail Blazers 89, Timberwolves 85

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP)—The reasons given for Portland’s recent improvement depend on which Trail Blazers player is asked.

Forward Zach Randolph said the Blazers are starting to understand each other. Theo Ratliff said the team is buying into coach Nate McMillan’s ways.

Ruben Patterson thinks Portland is learning how to win down the stretch— which certainly appeared the case Friday night when the Blazers held off the Minnesota Timberwolves 89-85.

Portland has won seven of its last 11 games after a six-game losing streak.

“We’ve had a lot of close games that we should have won,” Patterson said. “Tonight we won.”

Said Randolph: “We finished, and we finished at home.”

Randolph had 19 points and 13 rebounds for his 18th double-double this season, and Jarrett Jack came off the bench with a career-high 19 points.

Portland led by as many as seven in the first half, and took a 46-43 advantage into the break. But neither team appeared particularly inspired until the fourth quarter.

Jack hit a 3-pointer and Patterson’s driving layup made it 75-67, Portland’s biggest lead until that point. Minnesota’s Kevin Garnett closed the gap to 77-75 with a 21-foot jump shot and Mark Blount added a turnaround jumper to tie it.

Newcomer Ricky Davis’ layup and free throw gave the Timberwolves their first lead of the second half at 79-77.

Portland regained the lead on Randolph’s short jumper, then Randolph padded it with his 21-foot fadeaway jumper with 3:48 to go.

The Blazers held on and appeared to gain a cushion when Jack’s layup with 1:05 left made it 87-83, but Minnesota took advantage when Steve Blake lost the ball on Portland’s end, and Davis hit a long jumper to narrow it to 87-85 with 30 seconds left.

Garnett fouled Blake, who made both his free throws to put Portland ahead 89-85 with 0.3 seconds left.

After a Minnesota timeout, Marcus Banks’ 3-point attempt at the buzzer was off.

Asked why he didn’t foul Blake earlier, giving Minnesota a better chance to at least tie it, Garnett took full responsibility.

“I’m so locked in that I was thinking we had more time. I should have fouled earlier,” Garnett said. “I’m thinking we had had him (Blake) trapped in the corner, but not thinking that he’s sitting there waiting to be fouled with the clock running. It was stupid on my part.”

Garnett had 27 points and 15 rebounds for Minnesota. He made 12 of 13 shots from the floor.

The Timberwolves have lost three of five since a seven-player deal with Boston that brought Davis, Banks, Mark Blount and Justin Reed to the team. The Wolves were coming off a 90-74 loss Wednesday night to Detroit and former coach Flip Saunders.

“I need to get used to everything around here and we’ll get it turned around,” said Davis, who finished with 17 points.

Earlier Friday, Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor defended vice president Kevin McHale, supporting McHale despite criticism of some of his decisions.

Some were surprised by last week’s multiplayer trade with Boston that brought guard Davis to Minnesota and sent popular swingman Wally Szczerbiak to the Celtics.

“I just have to look at the long run. In the long run, we’ve done some really nice things. Overall our team, since I bought it 10 years ago, we’ve been a really good team,” Taylor told The Associated Press in a phone interview.

Portland was coming off an 86-82 near-miss against defending NBA champion San Antonio on Wednesday night.


Timberwolves reserve guard Richie Frahm, a former Blazer, missed his 11th game with a toe injury. … Patterson hurt hit back against the Spurs and sat out of Thursday’s practice, but was in the game Friday. … Portland snapped a six-game losing streak to Minnesota with a 91-83 win Dec. 23.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
K. Garnett K. Garnett
12-13,  27 Pts
15 Rebs, 4 Assists
Z. Randolph Z. Randolph
9-24,  19 Pts
13 Rebs, 1 Assists

Team Stat Leaders