The Trail Blazers’ storied 50-year history includes one title-winning squad and a handful of others that nearly reached the pinnacle of NBA success. SB Nation is putting together a historic field of teams that focuses on the latter in hopes of identifying the best team to never win a NBA Championship.
SB Nation will roll out 64 teams this week and they will eventually settle on a field of 32. The Blazers have four teams in the field. That list, with the help of our readers, will be reduced to a single team to represent Portland in the final bracket.
This post highlights the first Blazers team in the field, the 1990-91 squad.
1990-91 Trail Blazers
Regular Season Record: 63-19
Eventual Exit: Lost to the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals (4-2)
Leading Scorer: Clyde Drexler (21.5)
This was the most complete Trail Blazers team ever assembled. The backcourt consisted of All-Stars Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter, backed up by former Boston Celtics great Danny Ainge, who could play either backcourt role. The forwards were defensive monsters Jerome Kersey and Buck Williams. Kevin Duckworth wasn’t a great defender, but he ate space in the middle and could score from multiple places inside the arc. Cliff Robinson backed up all three frontcourt positions. Every player in the starting lineup was capable of going for 20 points or more on any given night. Every player just mentioned would average 18 or more points for a season at some point in their career, most of them did it multiple times. They were fast. They were physical. It was a complete nightmare of a lineup to deal with.
It seemed like this team never lost. They did occasionally, but hardly ever twice in a row. Seriously, they had three losing streaks all season. Twice they lost two games straight. Once they committed the nearly-unpardonable sin of losing four in a row (all to very good teams). That’s it. They beat Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, Dale Ellis, Eddie Johnson, Ricky Pierce and the Seattle Supersonics in Round 1 before summarily disposing of John Stockton, Karl Malone, and the rest of the Utah Jazz in Round 2. Both of those squads would soon appear in the NBA Finals later in the decade.
Everyone remembers losing Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals by a single point when Terry Porter’s last-second shot skated across the rim, but Losing Game 1 of the series really hurt. This was supposed to be the year that the Blazers established dominance. Instead a dying L*kers franchise snuck up on them to deliver one more cruel blow. It was as devastating as the 2000 Conference Finals loss to Shaq and Kobe that transpired a decade later, if not more so, as the Blazers were widely considered the best team in the league that year. If the universe gave Blazers fans one series to do over in all of history, this should probably be the one.
Other teams from the same era: The 1990-91 squad was sandwiched between two Western Conference Title winners. The 1989-90 team fell in the Finals to the Pistons in five games. Two years later, the 1991-92 squad would return to the Finals and eventually come up short against Michael Jordan’s Bulls after six games. Following that trip to the NBA Finals, Portland would exit in the first round of the playoffs for six-straight postseasons. Drexler, the leader of the team during that era, was traded to the Rockets after 41 games in the 1994-95 season.
You can check out the rest of the teams in today’s title-less field at SB Nation.