Rider ready to roll
Sore knee won't keep Blazers guard off floor Friday
Posted: Thursday June 03, 1999 04:18 PM
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- After strong performances in the first two rounds of the playoffs, Isaiah Rider was happy to at last be recognized for his basketball ability instead of his off-court problems.
Things haven't gone so well for him, though, in the Western Conference finals. Rider scored 16 points in the two games in San Antonio, half of them in the third quarter of Game 1.
To make matters worse, his already sore right knee locked up in the third quarter of Game 2. And, much to his obvious displeasure, he didn't play at all in the fourth quarter, when San Antonio rallied for an 86-85 victory to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 series.
"It just didn't look like he was playing at the same level physically," Portland coach Mike Dunleavy said. "He may at times thought he was OK. But it looked like he was thinking about his knee a whole lot, rubbing it, favoring it a little bit, not running as hard as he could run. Maybe it didn't look that way to anybody else but it was kind of noticeable to me. I look for him to come back and have a big third game for us."
Rider said after his team's workout Wednesday that he will be ready to play when the series resumes Friday night at Portland's Rose Garden.
"It's just really sore," he said. "It just locked up on me. I popped it out and made it swell and made it really sore. It has a spot there that's really tender. It's just a freak thing really."
The injury occurred in the first round against Phoenix, when Tom Gugliotta jumped into Rider's knee going for a loose ball.
Rider averaged 19 points per game in the Blazers' series victories against Phoenix and Utah, and he said he is accepting his more limited role against San Antonio, when Portland has focused on the matchup advantages Rasheed Wallace has at forward.
"Of course I want the ball, that's just me," Rider said. "I'd like to turn it up at any point in time. But I don't want to go out there and take all kinds of crazy shots just because I did well in the first two series. I still want to play in the confines of our team and not be an outcast."
The same could be said for Damon Stoudamire, who hates the fact that Dunleavy usually benches him in the fourth quarter in favor of Greg Anthony. When Stoudamire finally did get to play down the stretch in Game 2, he hit several jumpers but also had a big turnover and missed a critical free throw.
"If I sit in the fourth quarter, I won't be happy. That's just the bottom line," Stoudamire said. "I'm going to accept it but I won't be happy about it. ... I'll get over this, but I'm never going to forget it."
As usual, Dunleavy said that the decision on who plays in the fourth quarter will be based on matchups and how each player is doing to that point.
Brian Grant left the Blazers' practice early because of illness. Dunleavy said it was an upper respiratory problem and Grant should be able to play Friday.
Dunleavy had an easy summation of how the Blazers got down two games despite outplaying San Antonio for much of the first two games.
"We probably should be 1-1," he said. "With a little luck, we could be 2-0. With a little luck, they are 2-0."
The Spurs worked out in San Antonio Wednesday before flying to Portland. Antonio Daniels stayed home with what doctors think is strep throat. He is to fly to Portland on Friday but is questionable for Game 3.
The Spurs expressed caution as the series shifted to Portland. San Antonio has beaten the Blazers five in a row, but every game has been close, none more so than Game 2 Monday night, when Sean Elliott's tip-toe 3-pointer from the sideline made the difference.
"I just know we can't keep relying on last-second shots to beat Portland," Avery Johnson said, "because sooner or later, it runs out. You've got to play solid basketball for 48 minutes. We didn't play for 48 minutes. That's why I thought we had a serious sense of concentration in practice today [Wednesday].
"We're going up there humbled, knowing that we haven't played our best basketball yet."
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