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'Mighty Mouse' scores 32 to save the day

3/25/2004

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Damon Stoudamire lived up to his nickname.

Stoudamire, who has a tattoo on his right arm depicting Mighty
Mouse lofting a basketball, played the part of superhero for the
Blazers with a season-high 32 points in a come-from-behind 91-85
victory Wednesday night over the Los Angles Clippers.

Stoudamire scored 20 points in the fourth quarter, including a 3
with 25.3 seconds left to give Portland the lead for good.

"He saved the day," teammate Shareef Abdur-Rahim said.

With the victory, the Blazers keep it close in the Western
Conference playoff race. Portland, which has been to the playoffs
for the past 21 seasons, is a game behind Denver in the race for
the eighth and final playoff spot.

"I have a lot of confidence," said Stoudamire, listed
generously at 5-foot-10. "I feel like I can play."

The Clippers, out of the playoff picture, have lost five in a
row and 13 of their last 15. Los Angeles has lost 10 straight at
the Rose Garden.

Corey Maggette led the Clippers with 22 points in his return to
the starting lineup after missing two games with a sore left knee.

The Trail Blazers were down by as much as 11 in the third
quarter, causing Portland coach Maurice Cheeks to sulk at the bench
with his arms crossed. Then his team mounted a comeback.

Abdur-Rahim made a pair of free throws to give Portland a 62-61
lead late in the third quarter. After some back-and-fourth,
Stoudamire hit a 3-pointer to put the Blazers ahead again 72-71.

Los Angeles retook the lead when Maggette's driving layup made
it 77-76 with 4:52 left. Melvin Ely followed with a short jumper to
extend it.

The Blazers didn't pull back in front until Stoudamire's
3-pointer with 47.9 seconds left made it 84-83. Maggette's free
throws briefly put the Clippers back in front, but Stoudamire hit
his go-ahead 3-pointer and added a fast-break layup with 14.7
seconds left to make it 89-85.

"I think it's more his will than anything," Cheeks said of
Stoudamire. "It's his will that allows him to go out and dominate
a game at his size."

The Clippers took an early lead thanks to an 18-4 run that put
them ahead 35-24.

The Blazers closed to 37-32 on Abdur-Rahim's layup and a pair of
free throws from Eddie Gill, but fell back again until Theo
Ratliff's tip-in at the buzzer narrowed the Clippers' lead to 49-44
at the half.

"Damon hit some big shots and that team is on a mission trying
to get in the playoffs," Clippers forward Elton Brand said. "They
just out-scrapped us, especially in the end."

Los Angeles coach Mike Dunleavy said it was more than Stoudamire
that lost it for the Clippers.

"Twenty-six points off turnovers and 19 second-chance points.
That's 45 of their points in those two areas," he said. "That was
the game right there."

Game notes
Quentin Richardson, who has been battling back spasms but
returned briefly in the Clippers' loss to Denver on Monday night,
did not play. The Clippers were also without Keyon Dooling, who had
a stomach virus. And Chris Wilcox did not dress because of a
strained left Achilles' tendon. ... Blazers forward Darius Miles
did not return after the half. The team said it was an abdominal
bruise but did not explain further. He was officially day-to-day.
... The two teams split the season series 2-2. The Clippers have
never won a season series from Portland, but as the Buffalo Braves
the franchise took three of four in the 1973-74 season.