MINNEAPOLIS -- Steve Smith delivered the decisive blow after avoiding a fight.
Smith hit a key 3-pointer minutes after drawing a technical for tangling with Anthony Peeler, and the Portland Trail Blazers went on to eliminate the Wolves from the NBA playoffs with an 85-77 victory Tuesday night.
The Blazers won the best-of-five series 3-1 and advanced to face the Utah-Seattle winner. The Jazz lead that series 2-1, with Game 4 tonight in Seattle.
Smith and Peeler confronted each other with five minutes left and the Wolves clinging to a 73-72 lead. Smith fell down after taking a long jumper, and Peeler, who caught an elbow on the play, walked over him slowly.
The two jawed at each other. After being separated, they went at it again, drawing double-technical fouls. Their teammates stepped in to keep them from getting ejected.
A minute later, Smith was called for a hard foul on Peeler, and Smith stared him down again. Blazers Coach Mike Dunleavy hastily took Smith out.
''I wanted to take him out of the game and get his emotions under control,'' Dunleavy said. ''And then he came out and hit a huge shot.''
Smith, who rarely gets rankled, said he just couldn't help but confront Peeler. ''I don't want anybody to step on me when I'm down,'' he said.
But he dismissed it as a heat-of-the moment reaction.
''It's a playoff game,'' he said. ''It's over.''
And so is Minnesota's season, thanks to Smith.
The Wolves, who won 50 games for the first time in their history, failed to reach the second round for the fourth straight season.
Greg Anthony called the confrontation between the two ''just a little love tap.''
''That's part of the game. Those things happen,'' Anthony said. ''It's heated and competitive out there, and when you're competitive like both guys are -- and both teams are -- emotions can spill over.
''But everybody controlled themselves, and we got back to the business of playing basketball.''
After the game, Smith and Peeler put the dispute behind them, shaking hands as they walked off the court.
''We're tight,'' Peeler said. ''We're friends.''
The Blazers trailed 75-74 before Smith's 3-pointer with 3:45 left, and the Wolves never led again. Smith finished with 14 points, one fewer than Rasheed Wallace and Arvydas Sabonis.
After Brian Grant's basket gave Portland a 79-75 lead, Terrell Brandon's layup made it 79-77 with just under a minute left.
But Wallace banked in a jumper from the top of the circle with 32 seconds left, barely beating the buzzer and giving Portland a four-point lead. His two free throws 12 seconds later iced it.
Kevin Garnett, who was one assist shy of his third triple-double of the series, said Smith's 3 and Wallace's buzzer-beater were dual daggers.
''Those are like pins in your back, thorns in your arms,'' Garnett said. ''Everything you have in you, it takes it out of you.''
The Timberwolves, who blew a 13-point lead, again got great contributions from their reserves. Bobby Jackson, who didn't play at all in Game 3, scored 11 points, and the Wolves outscored the Blazers by 13 points when he was in the game.
Jackson helped the Wolves take a 64-57 lead into the fourth quarter. The Wolves were 40-4 this season when leading after three quarters, but 0-2 in the playoffs.
Jackson took a seat with the Wolves up 66-59, and by the time he returned three minutes later, the Blazers were up 70-68, thanks to six points from Detlef Schrempf. Jackson's quick 3-pointer gave Minnesota a 73-72 lead, but he came out again in favor of Brandon with the Wolves clinging to a 75-74 lead.
And that's when Smith made his big bucket.
''I thought if I hit it, it would really take some life out of them,'' Smith said. ''And I think it did.''
Then, Wallace twisted the knife with his bank shot.
''He called glass, I heard him call glass,'' Anthony said. ''We really executed well on that play and you couldn't get a better shot or a better shooter shooting it. It kind of sealed it.''
The Wolves missed 17 of 22 fourth-quarter shots, highlighting their biggest offseason need: a big man who can penetrate and draw defenders and fouls.
''You live by the jump shot, you die by the jump shot,'' Garnett said. ''But we should be proud of ourselves for going down fighting.''
This knockout came courtesy of Smith.
Notes: The Wolves grabbed a 13-point lead in the second quarter, the largest of the series for either team, but Portland closed the half with a 13-4 run to pull to 40-36. ... This was the first time in eight games between the teams this season that the final margin was bigger than seven points. ... Garnett had 17 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.
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