Terry Porter was a big reason the Portland Trail Blazers finally finished off the Seattle SuperSonics.
He figures to be the focus of even more attention when the Blazers open their second-round series Tuesday night against the visiting Utah Jazz."The matchup of me and John Stockton is probably going to be the key through the whole series," Porter said.
The two playmakers are crucial to their team's success. When Porter pushes the offense, as he did in Saturday's deciding game against Seattle, the Blazers seem unbeatable.
And, Stockton, of course, controls all the levers of Utah's offensive machine.
In the four games between the two teams this season, Stockton had the better of the matchup statistically. He averaged 16.5 points and 15.8 assists per game. Porter averaged 14.8 points and just 3 assists.
Utah also had big games from Karl Malone (27 points a game) and Thurl Bailey (19 a game) against Portland.
But the Blazers responded with their customary balance. Seven Portland players averaged in double figures as the Blazers won the series 3-1, including a 106-96 victory Salt Lake City on March 15, one of only five home losses for the Jazz this season.Portland coach Rick Adelman thinks the Blazers learned a lesson about intensity from the Seattle series, which wasn't supposed to be a contest. Only the final game fit the bill.
"Every game is different and you have to go out with the intensity that you need to win," Adelman said. "I think in some of the games, we thought we were going out to play hard but we weren't ready like we should have been and Seattle jumped on us.
"I think we're going to remember that. You try to play each game as hard as you can and consistent as you can. That's what wins series. You don't want to get your backs to the wall like we did."
The Blazers beat the Sonics 119-107 in Game 5 on Saturday.
"We should have closed it in Game 3 and started to think about Utah," Clyde Drexler said. "But everything doesn't always happen the way it should. The bottom line is we're out of this series and we're on to Utah."
Adelman gave the team Sunday off. That gives them only one day of practice to get ready for the Jazz.
"I don't think we're going to run into too many secrets from Utah," Adelman said. "We know what they're going to try to do."
The Jazz will present much different problems than Seattle did.
"They're more of a slower team," Robinson said. "They walk it up the floor. They run their offense. They really try to execute and really try to get good opportunities for Karl and John Stockton and the other guys."
Adelman said the Blazers' success against Utah in the regular season doesn't mean much.
He points to the way the Jazz played against Phoenix, beating the Suns soundly on the road in Game 1, then closing the series with consecutive victories at home.
"They took care of a very good team in Phoenix in four games," Adelman said. "They've always played us tough. It's going to be a great series."