Brimming with confidence
Rider, Blazers ready to ride off into sunset with 1-1 series
Posted: Monday May 31, 1999 11:55 AM
SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Looking more like J.R. Ewing, or maybe the Oakland Kid, Isaiah "J.R." Rider moseyed into practice wearing a straw cowboy hat and pronounced the Portland Trail Blazers still confident despite their Game 1 loss to San Antonio in the Western Conference finals.
"What's up, y'all?" he asked.
Well, San Antonio's up 1-0 going into today's second game of the best-of-7 series.
Rider's hat had a hole in the brim, ripped, he said, by a fan who tried to grab it away from him.
"I was like, 'Wow, I want that hat,'" Rider said. "It was a tussle, but I got it."
It was good practice for the intense tussle the two teams expect Monday.
The Spurs remember that their only loss of these playoffs came against Minnesota at home in Game 2 of the first round. The Blazers remember that they won Game 2 at Utah en route to their second-round triumph over the Jazz. And both teams believe they will play much better than they did in San Antonio's 80-76 victory Saturday.
"I expect a big difference," the Spurs' Mario Elie said. "Us having four or five days off, especially when you're used to playing every other day, Avery and I were talking about how we were a little winded, just not used to playing.
"And Portland having to play an emotional game that Thursday against Utah, then fly all day Friday and have to play an afternoon game, that's tough. I expect both teams to have a lot better performance tomorrow. It's going to be a lot more intense, a lot more physical and probably higher scoring."
Coach Gregg Popovich said he hopes it was the layoff that caused San Antonio's offensive problems in Game 1.
"Discipline-wise, we took short cuts quite a bit offensively, and we've got to change that," he said.
Rider managed a tough 13 points Saturday, eight coming in the third quarter. But he was a non-factor the rest of the game.
Rider said he still won't be the main offensive force as long as Rasheed Wallace stays hot. Wallace had a career playoff high 28 points in Game 1 but missed a wide-open 20-footer that would have tied it with six seconds to go.
"With Sheed going like he's going, we're going to go to him every time until they figure it out," Rider said. "I know how to play this game. I can get mine in other ways. I've got to bring the energy and I'll get it."
The Blazers also need more help from Arvydas Sabonis, who had five points, six rebounds and four turnovers in Game 1. Sabonis said he never got going after two early fouls.
"That just made it hard," he said.
Wallace's big game came after he got an early technical foul, then got into a heated discussion with Dunleavy. The coach left Wallace in the game, and was glad he did.
Wallace said his game feeds on emotion, and he is grateful Dunleavy is the kind of coach who doesn't harbor ill feelings after such run-ins. Wallace also thinks he's sometimes unfairly targeted by officials.
"In my personal opinion a whole lot of those referees have egos. You can't go up and talk to them," Wallace said. "They say that I've got a bad attitude and that I cuss too much. But that's only one side of the coin. They cuss at us. If you talk back at them, they'll hit you with a technical. I don't think they're baiting. I think it's more they're sensitive. That's how they are."
And, Wallace said, "They don't like me. I know that."
The Blazers say turnovers were a main reason for the Game 1 loss. Portland had 16, twice as many as the Spurs.
"For us to have a chance to win, we need other guys to step up and have good games also," Blazers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "That's the good thing about our team. They could be over there worrying about Rasheed all day long and it's not Rasheed tomorrow, it's somebody else. That's been the strength of our team all year long. You don't necessarily know who to prepare for, who it can be on any night."
The Spurs, meanwhile, want more help for Tim Duncan and David Robinson, who scored 21 points apiece.
"Basically, we've got to shoot the ball better," Robinson said. "We shoot 40 percent, it's going to be tough for us to put together a good game."
Still, San Antonio was good enough for its sixth straight win in the playoffs. Three more and the Spurs have their first trip to the NBA finals.
"We had five days off. We weren't really in-synch the way we should have been," Avery Johnson said. "But whether you win ugly, whether you win pretty, it really doesn't matter during this time of the year, as long as you win."
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