The Portland Trail Blazers relinquished the homecourt advantage in the Western Conference finals they earned during the regular season, but coach Rick Adelman doesn't sound concerned about that.
And with good reason. The Blazers beat the Los Angeles Lakers twice in three games at the Forum during the season."We've done it twice before; we did it last year," Adelman said. "We know how good they are, but we feel we can win anywhere, just like I'm sure they do. I think our team has a lot of confidence no matter where we play."
The Lakers took the homecourt advantage by winning Game 1 of the best-of-7 series in Portland 111-106 last Saturday. The Blazers evened matters by winning 109-98 at home Tuesday night.
"I think every game is going to be like the first two," Adelman said. "They're going to be very, very difficult games and they're going to go down to the wire.
The third and fourth games are at the Forum Friday night and Sunday afternoon. The teams then return to Portland for Game 5 Tuesday night.
"We've got to take care of our home court," Lakers forward James Worthy said. "We've got to come out and start the game aggressively and not wait until the second or third quarter."
If the Lakers hope to rebound from their 11-point loss in Game 2, that's exactly what they'll have to do - rebound.
The Blazers won the battle of the backboards 51-28 Tuesday night. Sam Perkins had 10 rebounds and Magic Johnson seven, meaning the rest of the Lakers combined for only 11.
"The Blazers came out pushing and shoving and we were backing up," Johnson said. "Come Friday, we can't be doing that."
The Lakers' 28 rebounds tied an all-time playoff low for Los Angeles and were the fewest ever by a Blazers' playoff opponent.
"They came up with the big plays and just manhandled us on the glass," Lakers coach Mike Dunleavy said of Game 2. "They established themselves in the first half, then made all the big plays down the stretch.
"We made too many turnovers when we should have been executing better."
The Blazers' huge advantage on the backboards would seem to support that premise.
Despite their rebounding problems in Game 2, the Lakers trailed by only four points, 100-96, after Johnson's 3-point field goal with 3:12 remaining. However, Johnson had two of his eight turnovers and missed a 3-pointer in the final 2:50, and Worthy threw a pass over Byron Scott's head into the backcourt with 2:16 to play.
Scott was one of the main reasons the Blazers didn't put the game away earlier. He made 8 of 11 shots, including all four of his 3-point attempts, for 20 points in the first three quarters. But he took only one shot and didn't score in the final period.
"I didn't think he was ever going to miss," Adelman said. "We talked about not leaving him open, but it's a game of mistakes."
"When he finally missed a shot in the fourth quarter, I thought, `Now, we're going to win."'