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Trail Blazers Hold Off Suns


Another lesson, and another victory, for the young Portland Trail Blazers.

The Blazers blew a 21-point second-quarter lead, then held on to beat the Phoenix Suns 88-86 Sunday night on Arvydas Sabonis' inside basket with 9.8 seconds left.

"We've got to learn that we can't go up by 21 points and then just cruise," Portland's Brian Grant said. "We're good, but we're not good enough to do that."

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  • Still, the Blazers won their sixth straight to improve their NBA-best record to 23-5.

    "We come out every night and we don't feel like anybody can beat us, regardless of what happens," Damon Stoudamire said. "We have a lot of lapses in games, like tonight, but we're still able to pull them out. We need to mature a little bit, but I don't think anybody in this locker room is unhappy with a 23-5 record."

    Sabonis had 18 points and 13 rebounds, while Stoudamire finished with 18 points and 13 assists.

    Isaiah Rider, who sat out the first quarter because he missed practice on Saturday, came off the bench to score 18, including four of seven 3-pointers.

    Coach Mike Dunleavy said Rider explained his absence by saying he got the team's schedule mixed up.

    "I'm not going to comment on it," Rider said. "You print what you want to print."

    Tom Gugliotta scored 18 for the Suns. Rookie Pat Garrity came off the bench for a career-best 14 points, while Jason Kidd had 13 points and nine assists for Phoenix.

    The Suns trailed 32-11 after one quarter and were down 36-15 with 8:56 to go in the second. But they rallied to cut it to 52-41 at halftime and finally caught the Blazers twice in the fourth quarter.

    Grant's two free throws with 58.7 seconds to play put Portland ahead 86-81, but ex-Blazer Clifford Robinson sank a 3-pointer to cut it to 86-84 with 52.7 seconds left.

    Portlan's Rasheed Wallace missed a 3-pointer, Kidd grabbed the rebound and was fouled by Sabonis. He made both free throws and it was tied at 86 with 30.3 seconds remaining.

    Jim Jackson missed an 18-footer but Grant, who said he knew the rebound would go long, got himself in perfect position for his 14th rebound of the game. He started to go up for the shot, then saw Sabonis alone underneath for the easy basket.

    "I didn't have time to think too much," Sabonis said. "It was a good rebound. I got a good pass. I'm in a good position and I did it."

    Grant's heroics were nothing new for the Blazers.

    "All year long he has been so strong on the glass, on defense and making big free throws, just making big plays," Dunleavy said.

    Kidd dribbled the ball downcourt on the final possession but his pass into the lane was knocked away by Greg Anthony. Gugliotta barely had time to grab it and throw up an airball at the buzzer.

    "The biggest thing is we can't get down 32-11 or whatever we were down," Kidd said. "It's impossible to win a game when you start off like that."

    Stoudamire, with 12 points, outscored the entire Phoenix team in the first quarter as the Blazers shot 68 percent.

    The Suns, meanwhile, were 5-for-23 from the field in the quarter. Their 11 points were the fewest ever for the Suns in a game played in Phoenix.

    Garrity ignited the big comeback with 12 third-quarter points.

    Phoenix outscored the Blazers 13-5 over the last three minutes of the half to cut Portland's lead to 52-41 at the break.

    The Suns scored the first eight of the second half to make it a 21-5 run, cutting the Blazers' lead to 52-49 when Luc Longley stole the inbounds pass for a layup with 9:32 left in the third.

    Notes: The Suns missed 15 of their first 18 shots. ... Phoenix placed Rex Chapman on the injured list before the game with turf toe. ... Rider also had to sit out the first quarter of a game March 18 at Sacramento for being late to a shootaround. ... Since starting the season 2-2, the Blazers are 21-3. ... The Blazers beat the Suns for the second time in four nights. ... The Blazers had 17 turnovers; the Suns seven.

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