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THE VILLAIN WAS A HERO
Jack McCallum
June 18, 1990
Led by bad boy Bill Laimbeer, Detroit took a 2-1 lead over Portland in the NBA Finals
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June 18, 1990

The Villain Was A Hero

Led by bad boy Bill Laimbeer, Detroit took a 2-1 lead over Portland in the NBA Finals

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Rodman was in the inconsolable zone. Ninety minutes after the game he sat by his locker in the otherwise deserted Piston dressing room, blinking back tears, occasionally stroking his grotesquely swollen left ankle. "I keep trying to kid myself that this thing is going to do better," said Rodman, almost in a whisper, "but this is the worst it's felt in a while. I keep putting us in a hole. I'm just taking up space out there." He had eight rebounds in the game but scored only one point.

Should Daly have put Dumars on Drexler for that final play? Sure, as it turned out. But Rodman has created so many defensive miracles in the past two years that it was the logical move, bum ankle or not. "And besides," said Dumars, "we weren't sure that Clyde would take the shot. Personally, I thought they would go to Porter, and I was checking him."

Porter on that night turned in one of the sweetest bad-shooting playoff games of all time. He made only 3 of 11 shots from the floor but hit an NBA Finals-record 15 of 15 from the foul line while collecting 10 assists. And he committed only one turnover and one personal foul. Thomas had 23 points and 11 assists but also had seven turnovers and fouled out with 1:10 left in regulation. Porter was asked after the game how it felt for Drexler and him to outplay what many believe to be the best backcourt tandem (Thomas-Dumars) in the game.

"Tell you the truth," said Porter, "I think Clyde and I are the best."

Later, Adelman slipped up behind Porter, slapped him on the back and said, "Nice game, KEVIN." Porter smiled and said, "You too, AID-elman." It has been an ongoing joke between the two because Porter is often misidentified as former NBA point guard Kevin Porter, and the correct pronunciation of Adelman's last name (ADD-el-man) is bungled more often than not. In this series the Blazers have pounced on all sorts of psychological gimmicks—the no-names versus the Bad Boys, the gutty underdogs versus the reigning champions, etc.

And in Game 2 the psychology appeared to be working. Somewhat unknown when the Finals began, the Blazers were now, suddenly, the new and delightful kids on the block. Detractors of Isiah found much virtue in the lunch-bucket style of Porter. With his Game 2 heroics, Drexler seemed finally ready to take his place among the game's glitterati. Observers marveled at the deft shooting touch of Duckworth, when they weren't marveling at the sheer square footage of his rear end. The unpredictable European moves of Blazer reserve Drazen Petrovic suddenly seemed so much more formidable when weighed against the awful shooting of Vinnie Johnson. And gee, did anyone deserve a championship ring more than good ol' hardworking Buck Williams, who had wasted so much time and so much energy all those years with the New Jersey Nets?

"I don't think America has warmed to us completely yet," said Williams after Game 2. "But if we keep playing like this, we'll open America's eyes."

Unfortunately for the Blazers, they also opened Detroit's eyes wide for Game 3, and a wide-awake Piston is a dangerous Piston. At week's end the confident smirk was back on the faces of the Pistons, and Laimbeer was just daring the Blazers to knock that black hat off his head.

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