The Portland Trail Blazers may be the deepest team in the NBA, but all their players seem to disappear down the stretch.
Portland dominated most of the game but it was the Minnesota Timberwolves who came up big at the end and swept a home-and-home series with an 83-79 victory.
The Blazers led throughout and held a 74-70 lead with 6:12 to go before going scoreless for nearly four minutes, allowing the Timberwolves to score eight straight points and take their first lead since the first quarter.
Dale Davis, who had seven points and nine rebounds, converted a three-point play for Portland and Damon Stoudamire sank a pair of free throws to recalim the lead, but Felipe Lopez sank a big 3-pointer for Minnesota with 50 seconds left.
Lopez also drilled a huge 3-pointer with 59 seconds left in the first game of Minnesota's home-and-home series, a 99-95 victory Sunday.
"I told him, `Same time, same shot, same result,'" Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said. "A lot of people have asked about Felipe. He's got an incredible work ethic and he's a great fit for this team."
Steve Smith missed an easy five-foot jumper on the Blazers' following possession and Rasheed Wallace's 18-foot jump shot with six seconds left barely grazed the rim.
Sam Mitchell, who scored eight points off the bench, made the first of two free thows but missed the second with four seconds remaining. However, the rebound was tipped back into his hands as time expired and Minnesota won the season series with Portland for the first time since entering the NBA in 1989.
Lopez finished with 16 points and Kevin Garnett added 18, 18 rebounds and six assists as Minnesota moved four games ahead of Seattle for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Reggie Slater chipped in nine rebounds and six rebounds off the bench.
"The thing about this team is they never really quit and they accept roles," Saunders said. "We're not a team built just on talent alone. We're a better team based on the fact that our guys understand roles and play so well and hard together."
The Timberwolves are now just 2 1/2 games behind Portland, which had its lead for the sixth spot in the West narrowed to one-half game over Phoenix.
"We're looking toward moving up, not just squeezing into the playoffs," said Minnesota guard Terrell Brandon, who had 13 points and 12 assists.
"We understand the situation we're in with seven games to go," Portland coach Mike Dunleavy said. "We need to play hard for 48 minutes, and play like we did when we made it to the Western Conference finals the last two years."
Rasheed Wallace and Steve Smith each scored 13 points and Arvydas Sabonis and Damon Stoudamire added 12 apiece for Portland, which has lost three straight and five of its last six meetings with the Wolves.
The Blazers shot just 41 percent (35-of-85) from the floor and missed all 11 of their 3-pointers.
"We had a ton of open looks, but we just couldn't make them," Dunleavy said. "Losing the lead in the fourth quarter is something you need to look at, but we've had good looks. I don't know what you can say."
"We're trying to fight to get our rhythm back going into the playoffs," Stoudamire said. "Everybody in this locker room is down, from the head coach to the 12th man to the three guys on the IR (injured reserve)."
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