Christmas Collision Ignites Rivalry in 1983
By DHawes22 Posted in: Blazers, Lakers
It was December of 1983. Hall & Oates
were topping the charts with "Say It Isn't So", everyone was rushing out to see Sudden Impact
at the box office and the popular television show Dallas was in their fifth year of dominance. On the court the shorts were short, the socks long, Clyde Drexler was a rookie and the Trail Blazers were battling the Lakers with first place in the Pacific division on the line. Heading into the Christmas contest at Memorial Coliseum, Portland was an impressive 20-9, just percentage points behind Los Angeles who rolled into Rip City with 18 wins in their first 26 contests. But this game was much more than a standings chase for the youthful Trail Blazers, who had only three of 13 members with over five years of experience, and would use this as a measuring stick against the veteran Lakers, already winners of two titles in the 80's and hungry for more. A rivalry was brewing. L.A. dispatched Portland in the 1983 playoffs, four games to one, and 10 members of that Trail Blazers team returned for the 1983-84 season, looking for something to prove.
And prove something they did. Behind 27 points from their two-time All-Star, Jim Paxson, the Trail Blazers sent their fans home with a 141-121 destruction of the Lakers for Christmas; an unreal performance in prime time. To put the 141 points into perspective, here's a stat that will blow you away. It has been 18 years since a Trail Blazer team busted that many buckets; January 26th, 1993 being the specific date in which Portland dropped 143 in a 10 point win over Golden State.
Although the victory propelled Portland into first place for the time being, it wouldn't last the entire year. The two teams went their separate paths; Portland finishing the year out with a 48-34 record, the sixth best record in basketball and good enough to garner the third seed out West while Los Angeles would take the division for the third consecutive season by accumulating 54 victories. Unfortunately, Portland would eventually get upset in the first round, losing in five games to the Phoenix Suns. But the 1984 season was the start of something special in Rip City.
After drafting arguably the greatest player in franchise history in the summer of 83, the front office struck gold in back-to-back drafts, stealing Jerome Kersey with the 46th pick in the 84 draft and finding Terry Porter out of tiny Wisconsin-Stevens Point with the last pick of the first round in 85. During the following season (86), Kevin Duckworth was acquired midway through his rookie year for first round pick Walter Berry. And the final pieces to the puzzle were put into place in the fall of 1989 after Cliff Robinson was drafted in the second round and Buck Williams was acquired for Sam Bowie and a draft pick. In a span of five drafts, the front office four All-Stars would represent the Trail Blazers in thirteen All-Star appearances. And that rivalry with L.A.? It only heated up from that Christmas day in 1983 as the two teams collided in the postseason four times over the course of the next nine years and it was on.