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ATOP THE PACIFIC RIM
Jack McCallum
December 14, 1987
Portland, winner of nine straight, has unseated the Lakers—for now
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December 14, 1987

Atop The Pacific Rim

Portland, winner of nine straight, has unseated the Lakers—for now

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The schooling continued under Trail Blazer assistant coach Geoff Petrie, a guard from the Blazers' early days who had a deadly jumper. "We wanted to get across that we weren't trying to change his game," says Petrie. "It was like having a really nice car and just trying to put a few more options on it."

The way Drexler is playing now, if he were a car, he would be something like the sleek taupe Jaguar XJ-SC he drives around Portland. Ten of his 15 field goals against Phoenix were classic square-up jump shots, several of them from 20 feet.

There's still plenty of time for Portland to revert to its mediocre ways, but this is a solid team. Point guard Terry Porter is only in his third season, but he has the intelligent game of a 10-year veteran. Up front, the Blazers have power forward Caldwell Jones, the 37-year-old defensive specialist who doesn't like to shoot (only 3.6 field goal attempts per game this season), and center Steve Johnson, who doesn't like to miss (his .585 career field goal percentage is second only to that of Artis Gilmore among active players). And it's impossible to ignore Maurice Lucas, the 35-year-old backup power broker the Blazers brought back to the scene of his—and their—greatest glory, the 1976-77 NBA championship. "He's a hollerer, and a motivator," says Drexler. "I just wish he would stop hitting me in the chest to get me motivated."

Motivation has never been Drexler's problem. Outside shooting was, and he's apparently taken care of that. "Since I improved the jumper, tell you the truth, it seems real easy to score," he says. And that is going to make it real hard on the rest of the league.

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