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Blazers to face Mavs in first round of playoffs

4/17/2003

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The Clippers couldn't help themselves, so
they did a favor for the Lakers, their Staples Center co-tenants.

Lamar Odom had 24 points and 13 rebounds and the Los Angeles
Clippers defeated Portland 107-93 Wednesday night, dropping the
playoff-bound Trail Blazers to sixth place in the Western
Conference.

The loss means the Blazers, and not the Lakers, will play Dallas
in the first round of the playoffs.

"I don't know if it's a better matchup or a worse matchup,''
Blazers coach Maurice Cheeks said. "Dallas has got guys that can
play. We'll have our work cut out for us.''

The Clippers' victory coupled with the Lakers' 117-111 win at
Golden State allowed the Lakers to move up into the fifth spot.
They will open defense of their NBA title against Minnesota.

"Aw, I'm glad we won, but I wanted to see Dallas-Lakers in the
first round,'' Clippers guard Eric Piatkowski said. "Mark Cuban
should send us all bonuses, shouldn't he? They didn't want to see
the Lakers in the first round.''

The Clippers aren't going anywhere, although they ended another
losing chapter with their first victory over Portland this season.
Los Angeles won its final three games to finish 27-55. The Clippers
wound up 13th among 14 Western Conference teams and last in the
Pacific Division.

"At least we finished off playing good basketball,'' said
Piatkowski, who believes interim coach Dennis Johnson made a strong
case for staying permanently.

"The way he got this team to play the last three games was
awfully impressive,'' he said. "Most teams when they're in that
situation just give up. Well, we just got stronger playing the last
three games.''

Andre Miller added 19 points as five Clippers scored in double
figures. Elton Brand had 18 points and 11 rebounds. Keyon Dooling
added 16 points and Marko Jaric had 13 points. The team shot 56
percent.

"We just wanted to spoil something for somebody,'' Brand said.
"Our season is over, so we wanted to play well and get another
victim.''

After letting Portland take a one-point lead in the third
quarter, the Clippers dominated the final 12 minutes. The Blazers
got no closer than four points before Los Angeles opened a
double-digit lead for all of the final seven minutes.

Bonzi Wells led Portland with 19 points and Rasheed Wallace
added 15 points. Scottie Pippen was held to just three points on
1-of-9 shooting in his second game since coming off the injured
list.

"We didn't get pressure on the ball and didn't play team
defense,'' Blazers guard Derek Anderson said. "We were tired a
little bit, but you can't let it become a factor.''

Johnson finished with an 8-16 mark after taking over March 3
when Alvin Gentry was fired. He used all 10 of the Clippers'
available players and Tremaine Fowlkes was the only one who didn't
score.

"It was nice to see that every fan in the building was standing
up and cheering, it was nice to see that these guys were happy
walking off the floor,'' Johnson said. "I did what I could do.
It's up to them to say whether I deserve to be here or not.''

The Blazers missed several shots that prevented them from making
a serious run in the fourth. The Clippers were especially effective
from 3-point range, going 9-for-13 for the game, including three
long-range baskets in the fourth.

The Blazers used a 14-4 run, capped by Wells' flying dunk,
midway through the third quarter to pull within one, 66-65. Wallace
tied the game at 70 on a 3-pointer and a basket by former Clipper
Jeff McInnis gave Portland a 72-71 lead, its first since the game's opening minute.

But the Clippers ran off six straight points, capped by
Piatkowski's fast-break layup, to end the third ahead 77-72.

"They played street ball. They didn't have anything to play
for,'' said McInnis, who visited the Clippers' locker room after
the game. "They were all talking trash at me, but most of them
wished me luck in the playoffs.''

It could have been the final game in a Clippers uniform for
several players. Piatkowski, Sean Rooks and Michael Olowokandi are
eligible to become unrestricted free agents July 1. Brand, Miller,
Corey Maggette and Odom will be restricted free agents, with the
Clippers holding the right to match any offer.

"Hopefully a lot of guys will be back. Coach DJ, hopefully they
take care of him because I think he earned a shot,'' Brand said.
"We put together some good games that people should take notice
from.''

Game notes
The Blazers placed C Dale Davis on the injured list with a
lower back strain and activated C Chris Dudley. ... Clippers F
Maggette did not play because of bruised ribs. ... Portland won the
season series 3-1 for the second straight year. ... C Rooks didn't
play because he was suspended one game for fighting with Troy
Murphy at Golden State on Monday. ... The crowd of 19,060 was the
Clippers' ninth sellout.