Later, Laimbeer left the locker room wearing a black Blues Brothers-style hat that Aguirre had given him. "I figured I might as well wear the hat that fits my role," said Laimbeer. The hat didn't exactly fit his blue shirt and his blue polyester slacks ensemble, but that's Laimbeer.
Meanwhile, over in the Blazer locker room the talk was of poor team defense (the Pistons, who rely on a moderate tempo, rarely score more than 120 points), poor shooting (the Blazers were 41.9% from the floor) and poor refereeing. Forward Jerome Kersey: "He chests up, puts you off-balance, and the refs just swallow the whistle." Center Kevin Duckworth: "I'm sitting there on the bench [Duckworth had five fouls] because of the bull-crap he puts you through." And Williams: "I'm going to work on my flopping technique. I felt he did a great job with it." The "he" in all three cases was, of course, Laimbeer.
The root issue for Portland throughout the remainder of the series, though, will not be what Laimbeer can get away with or whether the Pistons will be able to sway the officials in their direction. What the Blazers have to do is keep from getting distracted by the side issues and maintain their composure under the constant, frenetic pressure of the Piston defense.
They did not do it in Game 1, when they blew a 10-point lead in the final seven minutes. "We know we let one get away," said point guard Terry Porter, and somewhere deep down the haughty Pistons were thinking, It's over. We've got these guys' number.
But there were signs that Detroit was not on top of its game. Forward James Edwards (nine points) lived up to his nickname of Buddha by playing like a statue. Off the bench Johnson (0 for 6) and Aguirre (5 of 14) laid nothing but brick. Only the individual brilliance of Thomas, who scored 16 points in the final 6:49, pulled Detroit through.
Before the series, Thomas had remarked that Porter was the first point guard he would face in the playoffs that "is my equal or even better." Yeah, right. Isiah believes that about as far as he can throw the 290-pound Duckworth, and the line was clearly a setup. Thomas was truly remarkable in that clutch run, hitting two high-degree-of-difficulty three-pointers with Porter's hand right in his face. Said Portland coach Rick Adelman bluntly, "If Isiah continues to make those shots down the stretch, they're going to win."
In Game 2, it was Laimbeer making those kinds of shots. The Piston center had breezed into the locker room that evening feeling content after a successful morning of bass fishing. Laimbeer-haters would have gagged as he proudly flashed a Polaroid of his five-year-old son, Eric, holding a 15½-inch largemouth. "Eric caught it himself," said Laimbeer.
Later, Adelman almost gagged when Laimbeer hit an improbable 26-foot three-pointer, his sixth of the game, with 4.1 seconds left in overtime to give Detroit a 105-104 lead. As soon as the shot went through, Aguirre, never known as Mr. Court Presence, ran to embrace Laimbeer, and Laimbeer pushed him away angrily. "Look!" said Laimbeer, pointing up at the clock. "There's still time!"
And there was. Adelman called timeout—once he recovered from the near-swoon he went into after Laimbeer's shot—and touched the sword to Clyde Drexler's shoulder. Now, if Clyde the Glide has never exactly been called a choker during his seven-year career neither does his name pop up as a player known for rising to the occasion. But he did this time. He drove hard to the basket, forcing the overmatched, limping Rodman to stop him with a forceful hand check, and referee Hue Hollins called the foul, certainly one of the gutsiest playoff whistles in quite a while, considering that Portland was playing on the road. Drexler made both shots and the Blazers won 106-105, ending the Pistons' streak of 14 home playoff victories over two seasons.
"Last time, Isiah was in the 'Isiah Zone,' " said Drexler, who had 33 points. "Tonight I was in the 'Clyde Zone.' "