SI.com 2003 NBA Finals 2003 NBA Finals


Blazers ready to make history

Posted: Saturday May 03, 2003 2:18 AM

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- The Portland Trail Blazers are ready to make history, and on Friday night the Dallas Mavericks didn't look like they could do much about it.

The Blazers were spectacular in the first half, propelling them to a 125-103 win in Game 6 of their first round Western Conference playoff series. Game 7 is Sunday in Dallas.

"My whole message is the series isn't over until one team wins a fourth game," Portland coach Maurice Cheeks said. "Once the ball goes up Sunday, everything is equal."

Portland is only the third team in league history to force a Game 7 after trailing 0-3 in a best-of-seven series. Denver did it against Utah in 1994 and New York managed it against Rochester in 1951. No team has ever won a series after trailing 0-3.

"We've still got one game to go, and these three games would be for nothing if we lose Game 7," Bonzi Wells said.

Portland, buoyed by a raucous sellout crowd that was deafening at times, took control of the game with a 29-6 run in the first and second quarters. The Mavericks looked shell-shocked, shooting a dismal 33.3 percent in the first half while falling behind 64-38.

"All that matters is we believe in each other," Antonio Daniels said. "Right now we're 3-3, and like I said from Game 4, the pressure is not on us anymore. All we have to do is go out, relax and play. The pressure's on them. We need to keep doing what we're doing and we'll be all right."

Portland exploited every weakness the Mavericks are said to have -- rebounding, defense and heart. The Blazers owned the glass, outrebounding Dallas 13-3 in the first quarter and 29-9 in the half.

Portland shot 63.3 percent through three quarters. Dallas coach Don Nelson made liberal use of timeouts in the second quarter, and each time his players failed to respond.

"Anytime they ran, we countered it with our own run," Daniels said. "We need to enjoy this, but we really need to be ready for Game 7 in Dallas."

The Trail Blazers have been an enigma for three seasons now, and this latest trip into the bizarre and surreal seems fitting.

In 2001, Portland had the league's best record going into March, only to finish seventh in the conference and be swept in the first round.

It was the same last year, as the Blazers roared in the middle of the year after a slow start, only to finish sixth and be swept in the first round again.

This season looked like it would finish as the previous two had, and after losing the first three games of the series to the Mavericks, Portland looked doomed.

But something happened after Game 3. The Blazers made use of the talent that is supposed to come with a $105 million payroll.

"We could have rolled over and laid down, but this team has shown some pride," Scottie Pippen said. "We just have to keep our focus and not get too overconfident. The guys know what they have to do."


 
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