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Matchups in the NBA Finals between the Chicago Bulls and Portland Trail Blazers:

Starting backcourtsMichael Jordan is the best player in the NBA, but Clyde Drexler might be second-best, and Terry Porter has been outstanding in the playoffs for the Blazers. Jordan is more than willing to take over a game by himself if he feels he has to - witness that he has taken 195 more shots than Scottie Pippen in the playoffs. Porter, meanwhile, has taken only 92 fewer postseason shots than Drexler, and either one is equally likely to get the ball in a decisive situation. Drexler and Porter have combined for 50.4 points per game in the playoffs, with Porter hitting 52.3 percent of his 3-point attempts. Jordan is averaging 34.0 and Paxson 7.0 on just 5.5 shots per game. Drexler and Porter probably won't be able to maintain such as wide discrepancy because they have yet to face the defensive pressure Chicago will put on them. But the Portland duo has been so effective that Jordan won't be able to match their firepower alone. Slight edge to Portland.

Starting frontcourts

Each of Chicago's front-line players - Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant and Bill Cartwright - are scoring less in the playoffs than they did in the regular season for a combined total of 6.9 fewer points. Portland's frontcourt starters - Buck Williams, Jerome Kersey and Kevin Duckworth - are scoring 5.4 more in the playoffs compared to the regular season. Grant and Williams have similar assets - big heart, big offensive rebound totals, limited offensive weapons. Cartwright and Duckworth are slow-footed widebodies with strange-looking outside shots. Kersey has a history of strong playoff performances, but his career has taken a nosedive with four consecutive seasons of progressively lower production. Pippen, meanwhile, has emerged to Olympian status even with the considerable shadow cast by Jordan. Edge to Chicago.

Bench players

Portland coach Rick Adelman has stuck with a seven-player rotation in the playoffs, with both backup guard Danny Ainge and reserve center-forward Cliff Robinson averaging more than 20 minutes per game. Everyone else on the bench has sat out at least four postseason games. Chicago coach Phil Jackson has confidence in no one besides B.J. Armstrong as a backcourt reserve. No frontcourt player on the Bulls' bench has the talent of Robinson, but Jackson has Cliff Levingston, Scott Williams, Will Perdue and Stacey King to choose from, and all four have at least one double-figure game in the playoffs. No other frontcourt reserve except Robinson has scored more than 5 points in a postseason game. Of those four, one probably will come through. Slight edge to Chicago.


The Bulls have found their championship hunger lacking the second time around, so the Eastern Conference's streak of eight consecutive road victories in the Finals likely will come to an end when Games 3-5 are played in Portland. But even without the efficient play of last season, Chicago has shown itself fully capable of winning the most important games of the series. If the Bulls win the first two at home, look for them to have a letdown and lose two of three at Portland. If the Bulls split at home, they can find a way to win twice at Portland. Either way, it's Bulls in 6.