Western Conference Finals
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Portland Trail Blazers
With the Nuggets disposed of, the Blazers flew south to Los Angeles to take on the mighty Lakers. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had led the Lakers to the best record in the NBA, but these Lakers lacked a sufficient second scorer to play alongside Abdul-Jabbar; an aspect Coach Ramsey and the Blazers could exploit in the series.
In Game One at the Great Western Forum, Ramsey’s plan for containing Abdul Jabbar was effective from the get-go. The Blazers deprived Abdul-Jabbar of getting the ball in his favorite spot by forcing the Lakers guards to bring the ball up on the wrong side of the floor. This along with hot shooting from all five starters contributed to the Blazers Game One win 121-109.
The Lakers had been dominated in every aspect of the game. With Davis playing significant minutes, the Blazers had a clear advantage in team speed and defensive quickness, two things that the Lakers were never able to overcome.
Game Two was a different story than the first contest; the Blazers starters went ice cold from the field. Los Angeles had a strong lead at the end of the first quarter. The Blazers looked like they would be returning to Portland with a split, unless one of the reserves stepped up.
That man was Herm Gilliam. Gilliam had had a tough regular season, he hadn’t played as many minutes as he wished and a trade to New Orleans nearly happened. Blazers were glad it didn’t. Gilliam, known as the Trickster, stepped up and made impossible shot after impossible shot. He wound up shooting 12 of 18 for 24 points to spark the Blazers in the second half helping them win 99-97, shocking the Lakers and the rest of the NBA.
The Blazers were coming home to Portland with chants of “Sweep! Sweep! Sweep!” by the Blazer-maniacs.
Being down 0-2 seemed to take everything out of the Lakers, though Kareem was enjoying a good series averaging 30 points and 16 rebounds no one else was able to help out, primarily because of the Blazers quick suffocating defense. “We couldn’t give Kareem enough help,” Lakers coach Jerry West said. “Portland was too quick. They went by us at times like a shoemaker had nailed us to the floor.”
Behind Walton’s big 4th quarter in Game 3 and the Davis-Hollins duo swarming ‘D’ in Game 4, the Blazers swept what was supposed to be their hardest series. The entire city of Portland was abuzz; the Blazers were four wins away from being World Champions.