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Unstoppable!
L. Jon Wertheim
June 05, 2000
Mirroring the calm and confidence of their coach, the Lakers burned the Trail Blazers twice and took the drama out of the Western conference finals
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June 05, 2000

Unstoppable!

Mirroring the calm and confidence of their coach, the Lakers burned the Trail Blazers twice and took the drama out of the Western conference finals

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As a team, Portland's great strength is also its great weakness. The Blazers' $73.9 million roster boasts the kind of balance that would, well, make a Zen master proud. ( Portland dropped just two games in reaching the conference finals, but no Blazer ranked among the league's top 20 playoff scorers.) The depth and the democratic attack present Dunleavy with a battery of options and matchup possibilities and take the pressure off players who might be having an off night.

On the other hand, the lack of a hierarchy and the absence of a go-to guy become liabilities at crunch time. With LA. nursing a 93-91 lead in the final seconds of Game 3, Portland center Arvydas Sabonis, endowed with the mobility of Mount Hood, foolishly tried to penetrate, only to have the ball knocked away by Bryant. Ball game. In a decisive third-quarter stretch of Game 4, two Dream Teamers, Pippen and Smith, stood by idly while second-year reserve Bonzi Wells tried unsuccessfully to be the focal point of the offense. Suddenly a three-point deficit burgeoned to 10. "You've got to have players who know their roles," says Harper. "Not everyone can be the star."

As for the Lakers, after Sunday's final buzzer sounded, they strolled regally off the floor, led by their coach, who was wearing his usual look of supreme confidence. The Rose Garden crowd, which hours earlier had been raucous and hostile, was hushed. There was little booing or taunting; one could sense the fans' grudging recognition that the Lakers were more centered and composed—in short, more deserving—than the home team. This eerie quiet? Perhaps it was the sound of one hand clapping.

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