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‘Band Strikes Up in Portland : Trail Blazers: Robinson makes more than a fashion statement with his best performance of NBA finals.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

He has the headbands. He has the dance. He’s the talk of town.

Now Cliff Robinson has a worthwhile showing in the NBA finals to go with all of that.

Shooting 33.3% and averaging just 2.3 rebounds the first three games, Robinson checked in as more than a local cult hero Wednesday night. He became a key player getting 17 points, six rebounds and four assists to help the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Chicago Bulls, 93-88, in Game 4 of the NBA finals at Memorial Coliseum.

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That was more like it.

Robinson, 6-foot-10 forward, has been somewhat unheralded on the court since coming out of Connecticut as a second-round draft choice in 1989. He has played all 246 regular-season games, the longest streak in Trail Blazer history, and is invaluable because of his versatility on defense.

Need someone to guard David Robinson?

The Trail Blazers used Cliff Robinson at times.

Michael Jordan?

Robinson.

By the end of the 1991-92 regular season, the minutes of starting center Kevin Duckworth had dropped by nearly 300 from the season before, mainly because reserve forward Robinson was getting his time in the fourth quarter. That’s how it went Wednesday, Robinson playing 17 of his 27 minutes the second half as the Trail Blazers had success with a smaller, quicker lineup.

“He played with a lot of energy, especially defensively,” Chicago Coach Phil Jackson said. “He was doing some things that were wild and crazy, but they worked out well for them.”

Wild and crazy comes close to describing Robinson. Take headbands, for instance. He doesn’t just wear them to keep the sweat from pouring down his bald scalp, he chooses among red, white and a red-and-white combination, depending on he is feeling. Like a mood ring. Sometimes, he even switches at halftime. It became so fashionable that fans of all ages, men and women, started wearing them to Memorial Coliseum for games. And now the dance--his steps to original words to the song “Locomotion.” Robinson’s part in the hokey shake is to raise both hands above the right ear, like an antler, move them for a couple seconds and then shift to the left side. This year’s Ickey Shuffle.

Welcome to the “Uncle Cliffy.”

The scene, captured during the Western Conference finals in Utah, was played over the scoreboard and fans were encouraged to join in as the words came from the loud speakers: “Everybody’s doing the brand new dance now, c’mon baby do the Uncle Cliffy.”

Or maybe not. Robinson has shelved the dance, maybe for a while or maybe, he hopes, for a week. “I want to win the championship before I do the Uncle Cliffy,” he said. “Everybody is making such a big deal out of it. I don’t know why.”

Robinson’s play in the series prior to Wednesday had struck a sour note, however. The low point came Sunday in Game 3, when he missed nine of 11 shots and had just three rebounds as the Trail Blazers scored only 84 points and lost by 10. Uncle Cliffy admitted he started to feel the pressure.

“His game is predicated on his ability to score,” teammate Buck Williams said. “When he’s not scoring, he gets unhappy.”

Robinson’s mood swing was pivotal in Game 4.


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