On June 7, 1990, 24 years ago today, the Portland Trail Blazers squared off against the defending champion Detroit “Bad Boy” Pistons in Game 2 of the NBA Finals on the road in Auburn Hills, Michigan.
After leading 90-80 with seven minutes left in Game One, the Blazers were outscored 25-9 down the stretch and choked away a valuable opportunity to steal the first game of the Finals on the road.
Ah, I can remember it like yesterday… Well, only because I watched the game yesterday. This game was played before I was born, so please don’t try to hold it against me. There was a very good reason I didn’t watch the game live. As for Game 2, I only managed to find highlights of the game online. The full-length game has been taken down from every freaking link out there. I tried for hours to find it to no avail. I guess the highlights of Game Two will have to do:
In Game Two, the Blazers’ hangover continued through the first quarter and picked up where they left off in game one, letting the Isaiah Thomas-led Pistons take a 30-23 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Blazers, led by Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter, finally woke up in the second quarter, taking a 53-45 into the half.
The second half went back-and-forth until Bill Laimbeer went bonkers from three-point range in the fourth quarter. With only seven points entering the fourth quarter, Laimbeer finished the game with 26 points, filling in for a hobbled Dennis Rodman.
The Blazers trailed 94-92 with ten seconds remaining, but Porter drew a foul to get to the line. He knocked down two free throws to tie the game. Thomas’ game-winning jumper missed the mark, and the game went overtime.
In overtime, Thomas fouled out with about a minute left, and the Blazers took a 104-102 lead. Without Thomas, it looked like the Blazers had this one wrapped up, tied the series 1-1, and were headed back to Portland for three straight home games. But not so fast…
Laimbeer rained in another three from wayyyyy deeeepppp with 4 seconds remaining to give the Pistons a 105-104 lead. Even watching it nearly 25 years later, my heart sunk. That was as cold-blooded of a three as I’ve ever seen in my life. It was also Laimbeer’s sixth three-pointer in the game, which happened to be a Finals record at the time. The record stood for two years and was broken by Michael Jordan in the 1992 NBA Finals against, guess who, the Portland Trail Blazers.
With four seconds left, Drexler took the inbound pass, drove hard through the lane and was fouled by Rodman. Drexler made both the free throws giving Portland the 106-105 win! Drexler finished the game with 33 points on 13-of-20 shooting. Porter also poured in 21 points for the Blazers, going 15-of-15 at the free throw line.
You’re probably aware of what happened next, and as excruciating as it is, I’m going to tell you about it anyway. Portland tied the series 1-1, and at that time, Games 3-5 were played in Portland. If Portland could take care of business at home, they were going to be NBA champions. To put a little icing on top of the cake and even a cherry, Detroit hadn’t won in Portland in 17 years. 17 YEARS! Oh, and the cherry was that Rodman, Detroit’s hustle guy, wasn’t going to be playing in Game 3 due to a bum ankle. The Blazers had the title in the bag.
But, like I said earlier, you know what actually happened. The Blazers dropped three straight at home and lost the NBA title. Three straight at home… If there is anything about the 1990 NBA Finals we can look back on as a positive memory, it is that the Blazers won Game 2 and didn’t get swept in the series. It may not be remembered as one of the classic Finals games of all-time, but it’s definitely on the list.