Always the optimist, Portland Trail Blazer guard Terry Porter said he knew his game-winning shot was going in, just as he was certain his team would come back from an 18-point halftime deficit to beat the Phoenix Suns in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals. Easy for him to say now, after the Trail Blazers pulled off one of the NBA's most astonishing feats with a 108-107 victory before 12,884 at the Coliseum to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
"Of course, I always know it's going in," Porter said of his 14-foot jump shot with 12 seconds left. "I just wanted to get a clean shot."
2 After a miserable first half, in which the Trail Blazers trailed by as many as 22 points, it looked as if they had no shot of maintaining home-court advantage. They quickly fell behind the Suns and even got so out of it that they were assessed a technical foul for having only four players on the court. What's more, a team photographer was was ejected from the game for arguing with referee Jess Kersey.
"Not only that," guard Clyde Drexler cracked, "but our locker room was locked when we got back there."
The Trail Blazers might have been disorganized at that point but not, as it turned out, distraught.
"All we wanted to do was play better in the second half," Porter said. "I figured if we could steadily get that lead down, we'd have a chance. When we cut it to nine points going into the (fourth quarter), I knew we had a good chance."
Porter made it possible. He scored 23 of his 28 points in the second half. He made four of the Trail Blazers' five three-point shots, including two in the last 5:38. Porter's three-pointer with 28 seconds left tied it, 106-106, and he swished a jumper off a fractured pick-and-roll play with 12 seconds left for the game winner.
"We could have folded our tent, but we didn't," Portland Coach Rick Adelman said. "That's the way it's been all season for us. Terry Porter has been our game winner all along, and he did it again tonight. I just can't think of another win as satisfying as this."
It was not the biggest second-half comeback in NBA playoff history, but it was close. In 1948, Baltimore recovered from a 21-point halftime deficit to beat Philadelphia by three points. Four other times in playoff history teams have rebounded from 18-point halftime deficits.
Depending on one's perspective, this was either one of the greatest comebacks in Trail Blazer history or one of the most ignominious fold jobs the Suns have ever experience. Maybe it was both.
But don't mention tortillas and folding around the Suns. They gave credit to Portland for taking the lead. They say they did not give it away.
"I've had everything happen to me in the NBA," Sun Coach Cotton Fitzsimmons said. "It's not going to break my heart and it's not the end of the world. I'm sure we'll come back and play extremely hard.
"We couldn't stop them. That's the story. It was a great comeback, and they earned it. But this is a long series."
The Suns, after taking a 59-41 halftime lead, looked as though they didn't know what hit them.
With 35 seconds left in the half, Portland was assessed a technical foul by Kersey. It seemed center Kevin Duckworth left the court during a stoppage of play. No Trail Blazer replaced him. So the Trail Blazers were called for having only four players on the court. To that point, even five Portland players could not stop the Suns.
Then, in the second half, the newly resolute Trail Blazers scored 41 points in the third quarter to cut the Suns' lead to 91-82. From that point, the Trail Blazers clearly were in control, while the Suns were simply trying to keep from losing.
It took nearly all game, but the Trail Blazers finally caught the Suns when Porter sank his three-point shot with 28 seconds to play. The Suns called two timeouts to set up their next possession, and it appeared the Trail Blazers made a mistake by fouling Kevin Johnson on the inbounds play.
But Johnson, shooting 82% from the free throw line in the playoffs, made only one of two shots, giving the Suns a 107-106 lead. More important, it gave the Trail Blazers the ball with 27 seconds left.
The Trail Blazers, wisely, put the ball in Porter's hands. He feigned a drive on the right wing, then headed toward the free-throw line. Freeing himself from Kevin Johnson's shadow, Porter pulled up for a jump shot from about 14 feet. He swished the shot for a 108-107 lead with 12 seconds left.
Phoenix called its last timeout, then put the ball in Kevin Johnson's hands. Johnson brought it up, then passed to Eddie Johnson in the corner. Johnson, heavily guarded, attempted a high-arching jumper with two seconds left.
He missed, and the Trial Blazers had completed the stunning comeback.
"This is the greatest thing that's happened in my career," said Trail Blazer forward Jerome Kersey, who had 16 of his 29 points in the second half.
Porter did not say it, but it undoubtedly was his best effort in such an important game.
Drexler scored 16 of his 20 points in the second half and added nine rebounds, six assists and six steals.
"At halftime, we felt we were still in it," said Duckworth, who had 11 points and seven rebounds. "We just needed to make some shots and play good defense. That's the story."