#2 Buck Williams vs. #3 Rasheed Wallace
No. 52 Buck Williams | Power Forward | 6-8 | 225 lbs
Career Stats As A Trail Blazer:
30.8 mpg, 10.2 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 1.1 apg, 0.7 spg, 0.6 bpg, .550 FG%, .375 3PT%, .695 FT%
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One For The Books: Williams, Blazers Have The Last Laugh - By Wayne Thompson
Thus began one of the most remarkable stretch drives in Blazers history -- a night in which veteran Buck Williams, the workhorse of the great Blazers teams of the early 1990s, celebrated his 36th birthday by refusing to let Portland's hopes die.
Coming off the bench, Williams recorded season highs of 21 points and 11 rebounds in 30 minutes, connecting on 9 of 10 floor shots, as Portland rolled over the Kings, 117-105.
"I'm very excited," said Williams about the Blazers' wire-to-wore winning performance. "If we can get this sort of output and enthusiasm from our team, a lot of good things can happen."
With only his second double-double of the season, Williams played like a 24-year-old. The only shot he missed was an eight-foot hook shot in the second half, prompting him to say after the game, "I didn't want to have a perfect game."
"I have to admit, thought, I was in the zone -- and it was the Twilight Zone, either," he added, as a reference to those who might have thought at age 36, he should be spending more time in a rocking chair, or joining the over-the-hill gang.
But after looking at the statistics sheet, Strickland shouted out in the locker room for everyone to hear, "I think Buck should take a urine test. Get the cup." Teammates giggled at that, and to the casual observer, the Blazers locker room hadn't seemed this cheerful in over a month.
There was a reason the Trail Blazers took the proverbial "next step" as soon as Buck Williams arrived in Portland and it had more to do with his mentality, attitude and leadership than actual basketball skills. And that says a lot considering Buck is the all-time franchise leader in field goal percentage (.550), a rebounding machine -- amassing 4,861 total rebounds, fourth most in team history -- and arguably the best low-post defender at his position during his prime.
Just as Wayne stated, Buck refused to let Portland's hopes die. It didn't matter what the stakes where, No. 52 was putting out maximum effort every time down the floor, doing everything in his power to lead the Trail Blazers to victory. And that's exactly what he did on that spring night in 1996. As Williams was putting the wraps on one of the finest careers Rip City had ever witnessed, he had one last magic act to perform in front of the Rose Garden faithful. His 21 points that night, a season-high. He only managed to grab double-digit rebounds eight times that season, but, as always, Buck found a way to pull down 11 -- just his fourth double-double that year. But most importantly, he set the tone off the bench which led the path for the others to follow. That performance, in that situation embodied Buck Williams' time in Portland which is exactly why the Schonz said he was "everybody's favorite."
"Everybody's favorite. Tough as nails and gentle as a giant. But he could flat out play."
Photo Gallery: Buck Williams Through The Years
No. 30 Rasheed Wallace | Power Forward | 6-10 | 230 lbs
Career Stats As A Trail Blazer:
35.5 mpg, 16.8 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.09 apg, 1.0 spg, 1.3 bpg, .497 FG%, .335 3PT%, .712 FT%
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One For The Books: A Great Comeback Forces Game 7 - By Wayne Thompson
Unfortunately for Portland, this was only the next to the last game of the series and while it stunningly forced a seventh game against the heavily favored Lakers, it became a mere footnote in Trail Blazer history.
The Blazers routed the Lakers in Game Two by 29 points, 106-77, behind Rasheed Wallace's 29 points and 12 rebounds. The reversal stunned everybody who watched it.
Wallace proved to be a difficult matchup for the Lakers throughout the series because an aging A.C. Green and an undersized Robert Horry couldn't contain him without double-team help.
However, the Blazers shocked the handicappers again in Game 5, beating the over-confident Lakers at the Staples Center, 96-88, with Wallace and Scottie Pippen leading the assault with 22 points each.
Following Dunleavy's game plan, the Blazers simply dominated the Lakers inside, outscoring Los Angeles 48-28 on shots in the paint. Laker centers and forwards (O'Neal, Glenn Rice, A.C. Green, Robert Horry, Rick Fox and John Salley) were just 15 from 38 from the floor and were limited to a meager 25 rebounds.
That's how dominant the Blazers were on this day in the forgotten game -- the year the Blazers won the Next To Last One.
At times, Rasheed Wallace was the best power forward in the NBA. His array of post moves and unlimited range combined with freakish athleticism for man his size made him a matchup nightmare on a game-by-game basis. Imagine how Horace grant and A.C. Green felt having to defend this type of versatile player throughout a seven-game series? His mismatch on the other Laker forwards meant as much to the Trail Blazers as Shaq's advantage over Portland's front court meant to Los Angeles. On a team loaded with talent up and down the roster, it was Sheed who was called upon in the crunch when the Blazers needed a bucket.
Unfortunately for Wallace and the rest of Rip city, he didn't quite embrace the role or pressure of being a "go-to-guy." Often times he would lose his cool, taking himself out of the game completely. Yet despite all of his drawbacks, Rasheed's name is still littered throughout the Trail Blazers' record books as he can be found 13 times on the Trail Blazers Top 10 statistical lists. While Wallace's career is mirrored with a bunch of "what if's" and "if only's", don't stray too far from his actual performance on the hardwood. As is, Rasheed Wallace is still one of the most dominant players the Trail Blazers have ever had. Need more proof? Try asking Grant and Green.
"Terrific player. Tough. Could score. Block shots. Always yappin'. Controversial."
Photo Gallery: Rasheed Wallace Through The Years
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Bracket: The Greatest Trail Blazer Of All-Time