Spurs 93, Trail Blazers 79
PORTLAND, Ore. — Not long ago, the Portland Trail Blazers defended their brooding star, Rasheed Wallace, whenever he went into meltdown mode. His tantrums were just a byproduct of his intense desire to win, they said.
After his second straight ejection, however, Wallace's act is wearing thin, even with his strongest supporters.
Wallace got tossed for the fourth time in 13 games, stifling the Blazers' comeback attempt in Thursday night's 93-79 loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
"It's a major problem," said Wallace's teammate, Detlef Schrempf. "I think it should have been addressed a long time ago, but it hasn't been. (Now) it's too late."
Coach Mike Dunleavy, who long ago gave up trying to control his volatile All-Star, was at a loss to explain his behavior.
"We've got to find a way to be more composed, and we've got to find a way to keep (Wallace) in the game," he said. "I don't have the answer. I keep looking for it and looking for it.
"He may be right a hundred percent of the time, but that still doesn't change the fact that it hurts our team. We need him."
The Blazers followed their humiliating home loss to Vancouver on Tuesday night with a much more important — and possibly more embarrassing — defeat.
It evened the season series with the Spurs 1-1 and dropped the Blazers from second place in the Western Conference to fifth.
The Spurs, meanwhile, are cruising: They've won five straight and 19 of 23 entering Friday night's road game against the Los Angeles Lakers. It's a stretch of success similar to 1999, when San Antonio won 12 of their last 13 games to set the table for their march toward the first championship in franchise history.
"We are starting to play like we did two years ago," David Robinson said.
In the only other NBA games played Thursday, Charlotte downed Orlando 97-84 and Houston beat the Los Angeles Clippers 99-87.
Derek Anderson scored 29 points and Tim Duncan had 16 rebounds as the Spurs used a 23-6 run at the start of the third quarter to rout the Blazers.
"These are the kinds of games that define you, especially down the stretch," said Duncan, who also had 16 points on 4-of-16 shooting and six assists. "You've got to win on the road to be able to win in the playoffs."
Bonzi Wells led the Blazers with 16 points, but he also was ejected in the fourth quarter after a shoving match with Terry Porter. Porter's ejection was the first of his career, spanning 1,181 games.
Wallace, who did not start because he went to the wrong place for the shootaround and was late, was in a bad mood all game long because of foul trouble, and referee Steve Javie finally had enough of his arguing. Javie issued two technicals to Wallace, the second coming with 4:35 to play after Wallace fouled out.
Wallace pushed his league lead in technicals to 36, two shy of the record he set last season. He has 11 technicals in his last 13 games.
"Them losing their cool is not my problem," Duncan said. "If we made them have problems, that's more power to us."
The Spurs outscored the Blazers 27-14 in the third quarter, a complete reversal from the teams' first meeting on Feb. 27. Portland overcame an 11-point halftime deficit in that game by outscoring the Spurs 33-16 in the third. The Blazers went on to win by eight.
On Thursday night, Damon Stoudamire's jumper to start the third cut the lead to 51-44, but the Spurs scored the next 11 points. Two 3s from Anderson and a free throw by Duncan, capped a 12-4 spurt to push the lead to 74-48 with 3:04 left.
HORNETS 97, MAGIC 84: Even without leading scorer Jamal Mashburn, the Hornets won for the 10th time in 12 games. Mashburn was out with a bruised sternum suffered in Tuesday's loss to Minnesota.
Baron Davis paced Charlotte with 23 points and nine assists, while David Wesley added 18 points and 10 assists and Elden Campbell had 17 points and 11 rebounds.
Tracy McGrady had 19 points for the visiting Magic.
ROCKETS 99, CLIPPERS 87: Cuttino Mobley scored 16 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter, and Steve Francis had 22 points and a season-high 15 rebounds as host Houston came from behind to win.
Maurice Taylor added 21 points as the Rockets matched last season's win total (34) and pulled within three games of Phoenix for the last playoff spot in the West.
Jeff McInnis scored 20 points and Corey Maggette added 19 as the Clippers lost to the Rockets for the first time in three tries this season.