PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- It wasn't only that the Portland Trail
Blazers were riding a two-game losing streak and jockeying for
They were also playing their nemesis -- the Los Angeles Lakers,
who have swept the Blazers out of the first round of the playoffs
for the past two seasons.
"If you can't get amped up for a game like this, you never
will,'' Rasheed Wallace said.
Wallace hit a 3-pointer with 4.1 seconds left as the Blazers
held off the Los Angeles Lakers 101-99 Sunday to take sole
possession of fifth place in the Western Conference.
Struggling Portland needed the win after a loss to Memphis on
Friday dropped them a half-game back of Minnesota for fourth place,
and tied with the surging Lakers for the fifth spot.
The Timberwolves defeated Chicago 119-95 on Sunday to retain the
fourth seed, which would ensure home-court advantage in the first
round of the playoffs. Portland has two games left, while Minnesota
has one remaining.
"We needed a win like this,'' Portland coach Maurice Cheeks
said. "To win a game like this gives us a little boost to get
ready for the playoffs. We needed it for morale more than
The loss snapped a six-game winning streak for the Lakers, who
were led by Shaquille O'Neal's 36 points and 11 rebounds. Kobe
Bryant also had 36 points for Los Angeles, which was coming off key
wins against Sacramento and Dallas.
The Lakers play Denver and Golden State to wrap up the season.
"We have two games to get sharp, but wherever we end up is
where we end up,'' O'Neal said.
Los Angeles pulled in front 97-96 on Devean George's free throw
with 1:01 left. But Wallace answered with a 16-foot jumper to give
Portland back the lead.
Bryant put the Lakers up again with a 21-foot jumper -- but
Wallace again responded, swishing his 3-pointer as time ran down.
Bryant's 3-point attempt at the buzzer missed.
"We had to muddle through a game where we were behind after a
very tough start. Kobe's in foul trouble and we come out with a
one-point lead with seconds left,'' Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.
"If they didn't get that shot, what would you be saying? About how
great momentum is.''
Wallace finished with 21 points for Portland, which snapped a
two-game losing streak. Bonzi Wells led the Blazers with 29 points
before fouling out.
Portland led 81-72 on Arvydas Sabonis' 22-foot-jumper with 9:30
to go, but the cool-headed Lakers then went on a 10-0 run. Derek
Fisher's dunk with 7:45 left pulled the Lakers within 81-80 before
Bryant hit a 19-foot-jumper to give Los Angeles the lead.
The two sides traded the lead until Wells' driving layup put the
Blazers up 90-87 with 3:11 left. Wallace added a turnaround jumper
to make it 92-87 and the Blazers held on until George's free throw.
The Lakers trailed by as many as 11 points early, and Bryant had
two personal fouls less than five minutes in.
Los Angeles narrowed Portland's lead to 32-29 on O'Neal's jumper
over the outstretched arms of the 7-foot-3 Sabonis. O'Neal followed
up with a reverse layup.
O'Neal missed a pair of free throws that could have given the
Lakers the lead, and Wallace hit a 3-pointer to kick off a 12-point
Blazers run that made it 44-31.
Portland went on to lead it 52-43 at the half, but lost some
steam early in the third quarter, when both Wallace and Cheeks were
handed technical fouls for arguing calls.
The game saw the return of Portland reserve forward Ruben
Patterson, who had missed the last three games with a broken eye
socket after a punch by teammate Zach Randolph during practice two
weeks ago. Randolph was suspended for two games for hitting
The Blazers also had Dale Davis -- crucial for defending O'Neal --
after he missed Friday's game with back spasms.
But Portland remains without leader Scottie Pippen, who is still
recovering from left knee surgery and fluid buildup in his calf.
Pippen was supposed to return to the floor last week, but the fluid
caused concern. The Blazers have gone 8-9 since he went down with
the knee injury. They're 38-18 with Pippen in the starting lineup.
The video scoreboard at the Rose Garden showed coverage of
the Masters golf tournament before the game. ... The Blazers have
won five straight over the Lakers at the Rose Garden. ... The
season series between the two teams finished even at two apiece.