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Porter’s Gun Out of Bullets : NBA playoffs: Trail Blazer guard struggles for shots, finally breaking out in the fourth quarter in a loss to the Bulls.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In the not-so-distant past, the Portland Trail Blazers’ offense included a point guard named Terry Porter. It even featured him against Utah in the Western Conference finals, three-point shooting becoming a more glamorous part of their game than ever.

Then the Chicago Bulls showed up, and this quickly became the summer of Porter’s disconnect:

Nine shots in Game 1.

Seventeen in Game 2.

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Only seven in Game 3, four of which were misses.

Ten in Game 4.

Heading into Game 5, Porter had 43 shots in 170 minutes, one fewer than Jerome Kersey had in 23 fewer minutes and only five more than Cliff Robinson, a defensive specialist. No need to ask why the Trail Blazer offense had yet to hit stride.

Friday night, they lurched some more. Porter got his first shot with about 90 seconds to play in the opening quarter, was zero for three in the first half and one for seven through three quarters. He warmed in the final period to make four of five shots, but that only left him at five for 12 and left the Trail Blazers in a 3-2 series hole to the Bulls following Chicago’s 119-106 victory.

Porter says he is not frustrated, but there is no debating that he has suddenly become a minimal part of the offense after bringing the ball across midcourt. Consider:

--Frequency. Before his five shots in the fourth quarter, after the Bulls had built a 94-77 lead and were ready to clear the bench, Porter had shot three times only twice in 11 periods. Once he had one shot. Once he was shut out completely.

--Location. He set a league playoff record in a series of any length against the Jazz with 18 three-pointers, highlighted by one night in which he was six for eight. Against the Bulls, he is two for 12 and hasn’t shot from behind the arc since the third quarter of Game 4.

Instead, his scoring has moved inside. All three baskets in Game 3 were layups. Of his three second-half field goals in Game 4, one was a layup and one was a tip-in of a miss by Jerome Kersey. The 16-footer from the left side Friday was his first field goal from the perimeter since with 7:35 to play in the third quarter of Game 4.

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“I think we’re staying in front of him, and that’s been a key,” Chicago Coach Phil Jackson said. “He’s a strong kid. If he gets a direct line to the basket, he can hurt you with the drive.”

And the falloff in three-pointers?

“That’s a shooting slump,” Jackson said, “and in some ways a tired man.”

Porter vs. John Paxson was supposed to be the Trail Blazers’ biggest, if not only, advantage in matchups against the Bulls.

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Porter was quicker and stronger than both Paxson and his backup, B.J. Armstrong. Any time Porter dropped his shoulder to drive to the basket, Paxson or Armstrong was supposed to make contact and bounce across the lane.

But as it has turned out, Porter had an easier time getting shots against Utah’s John Stockton, voted second-team all-defense by coaches; or quick Kevin Johnson, of Phoenix; or the Lakers’ Sedale Threatt. Heading into Game 6 and possible elimination Sunday afternoon at Chicago Stadium, Porter is averaging three fewer shots a game against the Bulls than in previous series.

“They’re standing a lot closer to me,” Porter said of the Bulls. “I’m not getting open for the threes. I thought I got some tonight, but they (officials) said I was standing on the line.

“I wouldn’t say I’m frustrated. We just have to continue to work hard. I just have to be more aggressive. I think I have been aggressive, trying to get open and get to the ball, but I have to do it more. The main thing we have to do is trying to get the (fast) break going.”

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But the dropoff is obvious. Maybe not shocking to Porter, but obvious.

“I wouldn’t say I’m surprised,” he said. “When I look at the way they are defending me, I wouldn’t say I’m going through a slump. I’m still shooting the ball well. I’m just not getting the same looks as the earlier series.”

Except that if it continues, Sunday may be the Trail Blazers’ last look at 1991-92.


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