Blazers advance to second round for first time since '92
Posted: Thursday May 13, 1999 01:53 AM
PHOENIX (AP) -- Character, poise. Not exactly words that have described the turbulent Portland Trail Blazers in recent years past.
They fit perfectly, though, in their 103-93 victory over Phoenix Wednesday night as the Blazers swept the Suns in three games for their first playoff series victory since 1992.
"I think this is a good testament of our character. I think this was a growth game for us, a growth series," Anthony said. "You don't see a lot of teams sweeping a short series with the parity we have today. It shows a lot because let me tell you to put up with what we did in the third quarter and part of the fourth, a lot of teams would have folded."
While Grant and Anthony provided the offense, Isaiah Rider provided the inspiration, at least according to Rider.
Phoenix outscored the Suns 22-6 while Rider left the game for 6:45 of the third quarter with a sprained right knee. Rider came back, reentering the game and later cheering from the sidelines.
"I was the motivation. I was the reason that we woke up and started playing good with five minutes to go," Rider said. "I looked my team in the eye and challenged them. I got us in the huddle and said, 'What are we doing? So what that they're making a run. Don't fold. Don't give up.' I kept us together. I waved my towel from the bench. I was definitely Willis Reed."
Grant scored six of his 20 points as the Blazers outscored Phoenix 24-10 in the final four minutes. Anthony scored all eight of his points in the late outburst, including a 3-pointer that started it all.
Rider added 18 points. Arvydas Sabonis had 14 points and 11 rebounds. Rasheed Wallace and Jim Jackson scored 13 apiece for the deep Pacific Division champions, who will play the winner of the Utah-Sacramento series in the Western Conference semifinals.
"I think this was as much a mental win as it was a physical win," Portland coach Mike Dunleavy said. "It's something we've talked about since training camp, that we wanted to learn. Even though we're a young team, we wanted to learn how to win, win big games, stay poised, face adversity and still come back and win."
Cliff Robinson, who carried a label of playoff flop in his eight seasons in Portland, led the Suns with 24 points, but had three turnovers and missed two free throws in the final 21/2 minutes. Jason Kidd had 16 points and 12 assists.
"They were just better than us. That's the bottom line," Robinson said.
Coach Danny Ainge agreed.
"They manhandled us in every physical aspect of the game," he said.
The Blazers, a playoff series winner for the first time since they went to the 1992 NBA Finals, led by as many as 18 points in the first half.
But the Suns came back after Rider left the game in the third quarter for treatment of a sprained right knee. Phoenix led 83-79 when Jason Kidd made one of two free throws with 4:15 to play.
Anthony, again the choice of coach Mike Dunleavy to play point guard ahead of Damon Stoudamire in the fourth quarter, sank a 3-pointer from the top of the key to cut the Suns' lead to 83-82 with 3:47 to play. Wallace's three-point play put the Suns up for good 85-83, and Anthony's fastbreak basket with 2:47 to go put Portland ahead 87-83.
Robinson's baseline reverse stuff cut it to 87-85, but Grant made two free throws and hit a jumper, Robinson missed two free throws, Grant scored again and the Suns were finished.
The Suns vowed to get tough in this game, and their target was Rider. Danny Manning was called for a flagrant foul against Rider on a breakaway dunk attempt in the final minutes of the first half.
Then Tom Gugliotta, scrambling to get the ball, sent Rider to the locker room with a sprained right knee in the third quarter.
When Rider returned, he got into a confrontation with the Suns' Pat Garrity, grabbing the Phoenix rookie by the collar and drawing a technical.
"I was the target obviously," Rider said. "But it's going to take more than you hacking me. It's going to take more than you, when I have a dunk, and you jumping on my head. I'm mentally tough and it's going to take more than that."
Robinson's three-point play with 2:48 left in the third period to go put the Suns ahead 68-67. Phoenix led 72-69 going into the final period and was ahead 77-71 early in the fourth.
Portland survived 23 turnovers, 14 in the second half.
Notes: Williams left the bench when Manning fouled Rider and rushed to the baseline. He could be suspended for the Blazers' next game after NBA officials review the tape. ... Kidd was named to the NBA all-defensive team Friday. ... Portland was 6-0 against the Suns this season. ... In the first half, the Suns' Tom Gugliotta was 1-for-4 for two points with one rebound. He scored 10 with six rebounds in the second half. ... Rex Chapman, who played just seven minutes in Game 2, started Game 3 but was in early foul trouble and drew a technical in the first half. He finished with five points on 2-for-7 shooting. ... The Blazers shot just under 60 percent in the first half.
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