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Suns Hope to Shine in Portland : Western Conference: Phoenix, unfazed without the home-court advantage against Utah and Lakers, hits the road again.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Sun worshipers not only recognize this scenario, but might embrace it: Their Phoenix Suns, underdogs without home-court advantage, open a playoff series in a hostile environment where they have lost 20 consecutive games dating to 1984.

Only this time, no one is saying the Suns have no chance to beat the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference finals, not after what they did to the Lakers after facing similar obstacles in the semifinals.

In fact, because they eliminated the Lakers in a dominating manner and have had nearly a week to prepare, the Suns’ underdog status is waning going into Game 1 tonight at 7 at Portland’s Coliseum.

Rick Adelman, the Trail Blazers’ coach, is concerned about lack of preparation time and about how tired his players are after needing overtime of a seventh game to eliminate the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday.

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Rather, Adelman says he is concerned about maintaining the home-court advantage by winning tonight’s series opener. He saw the Suns-Lakers series as a cautionary tale.

“If we can hold our serve in the first game, I think we’ll be on track,” Adelman said. "(Game 1) is my biggest worry. The Suns went into L.A. and won the first game. I think the first game of this series is the most important one.”

At least, until Game 2 on Wednesday night at the Coliseum.

Portland showed the importance of the home-court advantage by beating the Spurs in all four home games, losing all three in San Antonio. Phoenix, however, has proven that it isn’t that important by winning twice in Utah in the first round and twice at the Forum against the Lakers.

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“It’s going to be a great series, maybe even going seven games,” Trail Blazer guard Terry Porter said. “If it does, we’ve got to win all our home games like we did against San Antonio. This is going to be tough, because Phoenix is playing good ball.”

Adelman said watching videotape of Kevin Johnson’s performance against the Lakers was “horrifying,” but he said his team was able to control Johnson at times during the regular season. Adelman said Porter will guard Johnson--sometimes with double-teaming and trapping, sometimes not.

“You have to give him different looks,” Adelman said. “You can’t let him penetrate like he did against the Lakers. But they have to defend us, too.”


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