A trip to Texas is an invitation to disaster for many NBA teams, but to the Portland Trail Blazers it may have been the last hurdle on the way to a division title.
In winning for the 12th consecutive time, 105-100 over the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night, the Trail Blazers completed a rare Texas sweep, with wins at Dallas and Houston preceding the victory over the Spurs."Not too many teams can come to Texas and beat all three teams," said Kevin Duckworth, one of seven Blazers in double figures as they won their ninth consecutive road game.
Not since Boston beat Dallas, Houston and San Antonio consecutively from Feb. 18-21, 1987, has a team won three consecutive games in Texas. There were 43 intervening three-game series before the Trail Blazers, who defeated Dallas on Sunday and Houston on Tuesday night, did it again.
In 12 previous Texas series this season, opposing teams were a combined 7-29.
"Our defense really played well. That helped open up our offense," said Clyde Drexler, who led Portland with 22 points. "It was a good effort on our part to pull out the win. It shows a lot for us to win all three Texas games."
The victory, Portland's 59th, matches last season's franchise-record total. With just one road game left and a 31/2-game bulge over the Los Angeles Lakers in the Pacific Division, the Blazers are in an enviable position to stop the Lakers' nine-year stay atop the division."I think defensively we are playing outstanding," Portland coach Rick Adelman said. "You can't argue with success."
The Spurs, limited to just 42.7 percent shooting from the field, did get another monster game from David Robinson. The San Antonio center had 27 points, 16 rebounds and seven blocked shots.
Sean Elliott added 20 points and 12 rebounds for the Spurs, who now lead Utah by just one game in the Midwest Division. Rod Strickland scored 19 points.
"Sean and David did a great job on the boards," San Antonio coach Larry Brown said. "But no one else was there to help them. This was a tough one to lose."
Trailing 94-87 with 4:22 to play, San Antonio used a field goal by Robinson, two free throws by Willie Anderson and a jumper by Elliott to close to 95-93 with 2:16 remaining.
But Jerome Kersey, limited to just six points, hit an 18-footer and two free throws for a 99-93 lead. San Antonio came no closer than four the rest of the way.
"We maintained our poise," Portland coach Rick Adelman said. "You have to give the guys credit. They came in and played a great game."
One key to victory was Portland's bench prowess. The Blazers got 39 points from their reserves, compared to just nine for San Antonio's subs.
The Spurs' bench players shot a collective 1-for-10 with four turnovers, 11 personal fouls and a technical.
"They are a veteran team and we are young," Brown said. "We can learn from our mistakes."