Portland rallies past Phoenix
Rider scores 25 as Blazers take Game 1
Posted: Saturday May 08, 1999 07:47 PM
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Isaiah Rider showed up in time for the playoffs.
After a miserable finish to the regular season that included yet more episodes of lateness, Rider scored 25 points and the Portland Trail Blazers pulled away in the latter part of the fourth quarter to beat the Phoenix Suns 95-85 Saturday in the first game of their best-of-five series.
"Once J.R. beat his man, we just treated him like a hog and just fed him," Portland's Rasheed Wallace said. "Once he got hot, we just kept going through him."
Rider was a non-factor for the Blazers in their final few games, scoring just five points in the finale against the Lakers and three the night before against San Antonio. In the Spurs game, Rider was did not start for the fifth time this season because he was late for the team shootaround.
He also showed up late for the opening jump ball last Saturday at the Alamodome.
This Saturday, however, Rider got hot early and stayed that way, shooting 10-of-17 for the game. He was able to post up against the smaller Rex Chapman and hit an assortment of fadeaway shots.
"I like the post play. That's my bread and butter," Rider said. "If I've got a guy on me that weighs 20 pounds less, then I'm going to go after him. The coach loved my energy, and I told him, 'If they don't double me, I'll score.'"
Rider's 21-foot jumper put the Blazers up 79-75 with 3:32 remaining, and his two free throws made it 83-75 with 2:35 left.
"J.R. played extremely well, but we've got to make his shots a little bit tougher," said the Suns' Jason Kidd, who had 17 points and seven assists. "Tonight the ball was going in for him."
It was the first time in seven years that Portland won a Game 1, and it was the fourth time this season that the Blazers beat the Suns.
Brian Grant had 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Arvydas Sabonis added 12 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and three blocks for the Blazers, who are trying to make it out of the first round for the first time since advancing to the 1992 NBA Finals.
George McCloud nearly brought the Suns back in the fourth quarter with seven of his 15 points and two steals in the Portland backcourt.
"It's a little bit frustrating," Tom Gugliotta said. "You want to be in it until the last minute, and hopefully be able to pull one out. We put the pressure on them for 42 minutes, but then we lost them."
"More than anything, we have to make sure that we get good shots in the second half of the fourth quarter," Suns coach Danny Ainge said. "That's been our struggle four games in a row against Portland."
Phoenix shot dreadfully for most of the game but rallied from a 66-61 deficit to start the fourth and went ahead 73-72 on a jumper by Danny Manning with 7:33 to go.
The Blazers responded with a fast-break layup by Jim Jackson on a long pass from Walt Williams. Rider then stripped the ball from Tom Gugliotta and drove past Manning for a difficult layup that made it 76-73 with 4:34 to play.
A bank shot by Kidd cut it to 77-75, but Rider countered with his 21-footer, and the Suns didn't get close again.
The Blazers were surprised they weren't double-teamed more by the Suns. Phoenix briefly tried it against Sabonis, but it didn't work.
"I was able to get in the middle and [Gugliotta] had no help, and I just fire it up," Grant said. "Maybe they'll try to double us more Monday. If they do, our jump shooters will just have to fill it up."
Gugliotta, who dislocated his right ring finger in the second quarter, scored 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting. Manning had 14 points.
"We felt like we could win two games here; that was our goal coming in," Manning said. "We still feel confident that we're going to win on Monday."
Phoenix led 41-40 after a sloppy first half. The Suns shot dreadfully from the outside but held their own on the glass. A running jumper by Manning capped a quick 7-0 run to make it 39-34, but Portland got a dunk from Wallace and a jumper and a dunk from Williams to pull within one at the break.
Williams' 16-footer was Portland's only perimeter shot of the half.
As they did during their three regular-season meetings, the Blazers dominated Phoenix inside by posting up Sabonis, Wallace and Rider on their way to outscoring the Suns 46-28 in the paint. Portland had a 24-13 rebounding edge in the second half.
Notes: Suns center Luc Longley lost his matchup with Sabonis, scoring just two points on 1-of-6 shooting. ... Portland has won 12 of its 13 playoff series when taking the first game. ... Game 2 is Monday at the Rose Garden. ... Blazers owner Paul Allen used his wealth and high-tech connections to appear at two Washington State University commencement ceremonies without missing the game. The Microsoft co-founder was in Pullman, Wash., at 8 a.m. Saturday to receive the school's distinguished alumnus award. Allen, who lives in Seattle, then boarded his private jet for the 340-mile trip to Portland in time for the noon tip-off. For the university's 1 p.m. ceremony, Allen taped an address at the Rose Garden and had it beamed via satellite to Pullman to be shown on a big screen to graduates. ... Portland's Williams missed his two free throws after making 29 straight since a miss on April 11.
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