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RODMAN'S INJURED ANKLE HAMPERS PISTON DEFENSE

The Detroit Pistons are keeping the biggest reason they are having problems with the Portland Trail Blazers under tight wrap: Dennis Rodman's left ankle.

Rodman was the last player to leave the Pistons' dressing room early Friday morning. Before he left, he unwrapped the sore ankle which has held him down in the last few games.It was ugly. Swollen to nearly twice normal size, Rodman was in obvious mental and physical pain.

"It's hard," Rodman said, "hard to sit there and watch when you know you can't really do anything about it.

"I can't jump and run. I don't have any speed. If we get a rebound, I can't run down the court. I can't do anything.

"It's frustrating when you're not 100 percent. You can't go out and compete in crucial situations."

Rodman was in and out of the game during the fourth quarter and overtime. Normally he'd be in all the way, for both his offensive rebounding and defensive ability.

He played 25 minutes of a 53-minute game instead of matching Bill Laimbeer's 44 or James Edwards' 38.

"Taking a game off won't do any good," Rodman said. "It's going to be just like this until the playoffs end."

The NBA Finals are tied 1-1 with the series heading to Portland for three games. Whether it comes back to the Palace depends on whether the Pistons can break a losing streak at Portland that stands at 20 games going back to 1974.

"In terms of what we have to do," Detroit guard Isiah Thomas said, "we just have to go in and win a game. When you lose 20 straight times in somebody's building, it's about time for the odds to start turning around."

Said Pistons Coach Chuck Daly: "It's very hard to understand how we come all this way and lost our emotion for winning. Maybe it's too many games in too many years. I can't understand it. They may disagree with me, but that's what I see.

"It may be fatigue or whatever, but I just don't see the emotion in wanting to win at this point. The thing I don't understand is we have to play three games in Portland no matter what."

Edwards said he was not fouled on his last-second attempt at a winning shot. Portland's Cliff Robinson got a piece of the ball and the shot never even hit the glass.