Blazers Ground Rockets


Scottie Pippen and Charles Barkley didn't even speak to each other, much less settle their differences.

But one issue was decided Friday night: If the Rockets don't start playing better soon, they'll make true Pippen's prediction that a Barkley-led team will never win an NBA title.

Steve Smith hit three key jumpers in overtime to overshadow the Pippen-Barkley feud and help the Portland Trail Blazers hold off the Rockets 91-88.

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  • "You can never get used to losing," said Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon, who left the game early in the third quarter with a right groin pull. "We just didn't win. There is no lack of effort on this team."

    Pippen led the Blazers with 19 points, but he was held scoreless after the third quarter. Smith and Rasheed Wallace each added 15 points for Portland, which improved to 12-2 and 5-0 at home.

    Reserve Cuttino Mobley had 25 points to lead the Rockets, who started their four-game road trip by falling to 3-11. Barkley had 13 points and 11 rebounds.

    The game was the first between the teams since Pippen was traded to the Blazers on Oct. 2. The deal came days after Pippen blasted Barkley on national TV, calling him "selfish" and "fat."

    There were no confrontations between the two players, who won a gold medal together at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. They didn't shake hands before the game and did not speak to each other the rest of the night.

    "I'm not disappointed we didn't talk," Pippen said. "I'm not interested in apologizing to him. As far as I'm concerned, it's over and it's behind me."

    Barkley also aid the matter is done, and even said it really wasn't a feud to begin with.

    "You guys say I got a feud with Scotty," he said. "Scotty said some bad things about me. I've never said anything bad about Scotty, have I? Never. We don't have a feud.

    "He said some things about me; obviously, I did not like them. But I can't sit around and whine like a little girl. It's over with."

    The Rockets committed 23 turnovers and shot 34 percent, but still had several chances to win because the Blazers couldn't make their free throws down the stretch in the fourth quarter.

    After a long jumper by Smith, Mobley's 3-pointer gave the Rockets an 85-84 lead with 2:02 left. Smith then hit two straight shots a quick catch-and-shoot with 1:45 remaining and a leaner with 1:15 left to make it 88-85 Blazers.

    Rookie Steve Francis had an uncontested dunk and free throw, but Greg Anthony made two from the line for a 91-88 lead. Houston's Matt Bullard missed a 3-pointer as time ran out.

    "It wasn't that great a win for us," Pippen said. "We don't have anything to celebrate about."

    The Rockets came back from an 11-point third-quarter deficit to tie it at 77-all on a 3-pointer by Bullard with 3:36 left in regulation. Damon Stoudamire's 14-foot jumper rattled in to give Portland a 79-77 lead with 46.8 seconds left.

    After Detlef Schrempf made one of two free throws for the Blazers, Houston tied it again at 80 when Kelvin Cato, one of the six players Portland traded for Pippen, followed a missed layup by Francis with a powerful two-handed dunk with 11.2 seconds left.

    Wallace and Stoudamire missed shots in the final seconds of regulation.

    The Blazers nearly lost the game at the free-throw line. After making their first 11 shots, they went just 3-for-11 in regulation, but hit 3-of-4 in overtime.

    "I was very proud of the way we played," Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "We laid it out on the floor."

    Pippen got off to a quick start, hitting five of his first seven shots and scoring 11 points in the first quarter as Portland took a 25-15 lead. Barkley played less than six minutes in the first quarter and missed his first four shots.

    Pippen, who had lobbied for a trade after a frustrating season in the Rockets' halfcourt offense last season, ripped Barkley on an ESPN interview Sept. 29, saying Barkley would never win an NBA title because he didn't have enough dedication.

    Asked if he should aplogize to Barkley for seeking a trade, Pippen replied in the interview, "If anything, he owes me an apology for coming to play with his sorry fat butt."

    Three days later, Pippen was dealt to Portland.

    Despite Portland's fast start, Barkley wasn't impressed by what he saw Friday night.

    "They're not as good as I thought they were," he said. "They've got a good team, but you can play with them.

    "The best team is the San Antonio Spurs. December is when you give out presents, not championship trophies."

    Notes

  • Portland's 12-2 record is its second-best ever after 14 games. The team went 13-1 to start the 1990-91 season.
  • The last time Houston visited Portland, on March 7, the Rockets lost 111-71, the team's worst defeat ever to the Blazers.
  • Three of the players Portland traded for Pippen Walt Williams, Cato and Carlos Rogers combined for 20 points, led by Cato's 13.

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