Lakers Survive Final Threat : Western Conference: Porter misses, Johnson passes and Los Angeles wins right to play Bulls, 91-90.
Danny Ainge said the Lakers had already stolen the Trail Blazers’ heart and Thursday night, the Lakers claimed the body and soul as well.
Not that Portland gave them up easily.
They rallied from a 15-point deficit and had Terry Porter shooting an open 17-footer for the lead in the closing seconds.
Porter missed, and several adventures later, the Lakers won, 91-90, winning the Western Conference finals, 4-2, returning to the NBA finals for the ninth time in Magic Johnson’s 12 seasons to face the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan, making his first trip.
“Unbelievable,” said Mike Dunleavy, the first rookie coach in the finals since Pat Riley.
“The only reason I took this job a year ago was this team had a chance to win a championship.
“Here it is, May 30, and I’m still right.”
“Unbelievable” was a word heard more than once Thursday.
Porter’s shot was rebounded by Johnson, who threw the ball the length of the court, trying to kill the last three seconds. . . .
But let him tell the story.
“I knew they were going to foul me, so I threw the ball out,” Johnson said, “and the clock stopped!
“I looked up and it was stopped at 2.2 seconds left! I said, ‘Where are we, Boston Garden?’ This is unbelievable!
“Finally, when the ball got to half court, the clock started moving again.”
The clock had one-tenth of a second left when the ball went out of bounds at the far baseline. The Trail Blazers got a last inbounds play, Buck Williams throwing it to the other end, where it was batted away, making the Lakers champions of the West.
The timekeeper, Robin Mahkorn, left the Forum without commenting.
A Laker spokesman checked a replay and confirmed that the clock stopped for half a second.
The spokesman said Mahkorn believed a foul had been called.
“It was bizarre,” said public-address announcer Lawrence Tanter, who sits at the scorer’s table near Makhorn.
“I talked to him. A lot of players came over and talked to him.
“He was a little nervous.”
This was the last act in a heart-stopping fourth quarter. If the Lakers look back, they may shudder.
If the Trail Blazers look back, they may weep.
With the Lakers ahead, 89-88, and less than a minute left, Portland ran a four-on-one fast break, but Cliff Robinson dropped Jerome Kersey’s pass out of bounds.
“You design things,” Coach Rick Adelman said, “but you get a four-on-one, you can’t design anything better than that. That’s a dunk, we take the lead and put the pressure on them.”
Oh no you don’t.
“I took my eyes off it for a second,” Robinson said. “It was a little harder than I expected.
“That play didn’t lose the game. I’m not going to let myself dwell on it all summer. I’ve got to stay strong.”
At the other end, Johnson drove the lane and zipped a pass under the basket to Vlade Divac, who was fouled.
Divac made two free throws with 43 seconds left. The Lakers led, 91-88.
Porter, whose outside shooting had pulled the Trail Blazers back in, scored his 23rd and 24th points with a little luck, banking in a 15-footer by accident.
With 35 seconds left, Portland was within 91-90.
Johnson drove the lane again and zipped another pass to Divac.
Divac pivoted left to right and put up a shot, but the 6-foot-7 Kersey blocked it. The 24-second clock ran out. Portland had the ball with 12.5 seconds remaining.
“I could have strangled him (Divac),” Johnson said, laughing. “He should just have gone and dunked it. What he did was turn his back and try to power it up on the blind side. Like I told him, ‘You don’t ever do that in a close game.’ ”
The Trail Blazers put the ball in Clyde Drexler’s hands, defended by James Worthy, bad left ankle and all.
Other Lakers helped cut Drexler off. The ball swung to Porter, alone on the right wing.
Porter, 10 for 17 at that moment, three for four on three-pointers, shot and missed.
“Wide-open shot, in my rhythm,” Porter said. “What more can you want as a shooter than that kind of shot?
“It just didn’t go down. It felt good leaving my hand. It was right on line. It was just a tad short.”
So were the Trail Blazers.
“I’m very proud of my team,” Adelman said. “They showed you tonight what we’re made of. We just came up short.
“Our goal this season was to win a championship, after having been in the finals last year. We beat this team for the Pacific Division, but I’d rather have the Western Conference.”
That remains with the traditional proprietor.
“It’s just sweet,” Johnson said, beaming. “I just can’t tell you how it feels.
“Considering everything--all you guys doubting us, picking us fifth and sixth in the West, writing us off when we were 2-5. And rightly so, because we looked like a bad team.”
He said he was going to have a word with the timekeeper before the finals.
A.C. Green, the Oregon native who started the series buried on the bench but became one of its stars, scored eight points of a first-half 15-1 Laker run, including a dramatic three-pointer ending the first quarter to give the Lakers a 28-17 lead. “Just before I took the ball out of bounds,” Green said, “I looked down and I saw my pastor and his wife. He gave me a thumbs-up sign. I knew what that meant. We talked for an hour before the game, and he told me if I had a shot, to shoot. It was a high-arcing shot. It seemed like it took forever to come down. I went crazy after that.” . . . James Worthy played 38 minutes on his sprained left ankle. He was far off form (three for 12, eight points), but Mike Dunleavy still had him guard Clyde Drexler on the last Portland play. Said Dunleavy: “He gave us enough defense to take us right where we wanted to go--to the finals.” . . . Portland center Kevin Duckworth, asked his assessment of the NBA finals, said: “Well, I’m from suburban Chicago, so I guess I’ll be pulling for the Bulls.” Asked who will win, Duckworth said: “Like I said, the Bulls.”
OFF THE MARK: Terry Porter scored a team-high 24 points, but he missed the shot Portland needed most--an open 17-footer with four seconds remaining. C6