Odd and improbable and spectacular things happen in sports. But few this odd and improbable and spectacular:
The Detroit Pistons are down by seven points, 90-83, to the Portland Trail Blazers with two minutes and two seconds left to play Thursday night in the fifth game of their NBA Finals series.Detroit calls an emergency timeout.
The 12,642 fans in Memorial Coliseum take their cue.
They're stomping around in their birkenstock sandals, they're wringing wet in their wool shirts, they're making enough noise to wake up the Sierra Club, they're sending the Mania-Meter, a thermometer-type device that measures crowd noise, to a level that can be heard across the Columbia River. On the opposite shore, in Vancouver, Wash., they're yelling at Portland to keep it down.
It's the kind of noise only a Blazermaniac and a hearing doctor can love.
A large balloon is sent floating across the playing floor, with this message on its side:
On even normal occasions, due to its compact seating arrangement, the Portland Coliseum is loud. Now it is out of control as the diamond-vision scoreboard scopes in on a fan wearing a Blazers T-shirt and holding a sign that says "Let's Make History," meaning that now is the time for the Trail Blazers, down three games to one in these finals, to get down to business and become the first team in the history of the NBA to come back from such a hole.
In the midst of all this pandemonium, the Pistons are huddled around their coach, Chuck Daly, who is not whispering.
You're figuring he's telling his team what time the plane leaves to take the team and the series to Detroit for Sunday's sixth game.
Then the buzzer calls the players back to the floor, and the state that loves its Blazers as much as it loves its fir trees braces for a cinch celebration.
Twelve seconds later, Detroit's Vinnie Johnson goes up for a jump shot. It goes in as he is fouled by Portland's leading offensive player, Clyde Drexler, who has to leave the game on account of it being his sixth foul.
Johnson adds the free throw. It's 90-86.
Eighteen seconds later, Portland's Kevin Duckworth misses a jump shot and Detroit's Bill Laimbeer grabs his 16th rebound of the game.
Twelve seconds later, Vinnie Johnson makes another jump shot. It's 90-88.
Two seconds later, Duckworth misses a short hook shot and Laimbeer grabs his 17th rebound of the game.
Twenty-five seconds later, Detroit's Isiah Thomas makes an 18-foot jump shot. It's 90-90.
Sixteen and a half seconds later, Portland's Terry Porter throws a pass to a Blazers fan sitting three rows up in the seats in the end zone.
Now there are 20.1 seconds remaining, and Detroit calls time out to set up what could be a game-winning play.
Having seen the past 80 seconds, and sensing that Murphy's Law is on their side, many Blazers fans start inching out the aisles.
With seven-tenths of a second left to play, Vinnie Johnson shoots over Portland's Jerome Kersey and hits nothing but net, or, as Bill Schonley, the Blazers' play-by-play announcer, would say, "Rip City."
By the wrong team.
Detroit wins, 92-90.
Memorial Coliseum is quiet enough to hear a championship drop.
Only one man, who is wearing a "Bad Boys" T-shirt, is making any noise, waving a towel around his head with no apparent regard for his life or personal safety.
Rick Adelman, the Blazers' coach, emerges from his locker room and says quietly, "When we can't get a shot to go down and they're making every jump shot they take . . . it's tough. Give them credit. In the last two minutes they made e-v-e-r-y s-i-n-g-l-e shot they had to make."
Adelman shakes his head.
"Any team that can beat our team in our building three times in a row is a great team. I didn't think that was possible."
In the end, even the coach that got ambushed is awed by what the Pistons pulled off.
They came, they saw, they silenced the maniacs.
Not an easy assignment.
If this isn't one of the best teams ever to win the NBA title, do the people in Oregon a favor. Don't tell them.