On March 19, 1991, Lech Walesa became the first Polish President to visit the United States. What a time to be alive. Also on that day, the Portland Trail Blazers visited their division rivals, the Golden State Warriors. Portland sat atop the Pacific Division, with a record of 47-17, good enough for the best record in the Western Conference. Thirteen games behind them were the Golden State Warriors with a record of 34-30. The Blazers were the defending Conference Champions, having made the Finals in 1990, while the Warriors were an exciting young team on the rise. This marks the first game that we’re visiting that took place while I was actually alive, so between that, and that visit from the Polish President, this was clearly a day of historical significance. Now, we can only cover one of those topics, so, if you want to learn more about Lech Walesa, you should consult your local library. If you want to know all about this random basketball game between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Golden State Warriors, you’ve come to the right place.
The game immediately starts with our play-by-play announcer informing us that the Blazers team plane had to abort its take off due to a problem in its right engine. In fact, the right engine “blew” according to our announcers. The team then had to split onto two separate planes for their trip down to Oakland. Will that harrowing journey have any negative effects on the Trail Blazers in this game?
The Warriors begin the game on fire, shooting over 60% for the quarter. Numerous Portland turnovers led to fast breaks that Golden State was only too happy to take advantage of. Mitch Richmond didn’t miss in the quarter for the Warriors, netting 17 points on 7-7 shooting. Chris Mullin was right behind him, scoring 14. Golden State’s moving too fast for the Blazers, who are perhaps suffering from fatigue after that crazy flight of theirs.
Other first quarter highlights
– One of our announcers admitted to not paying attention to the game because he was looking at his wife who was sitting across the court. He then promised to watch the game from that point on, which inspired the play-by-play man to say, “Why start now, Jim?” They haven’t yet revealed their full names.
– Our announcers reported that the Blazers have been struggling lately, losing seven of their last ten games, including coming off “an embarrassing home loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.”
– On top of his hot shooting, Chris Mullin showed that he was a really great passer, threading the needle for some easy buckets. I feel like he’s one of the most underrated players in NBA history. He was really, really good in his day.
– Warriors center Alton Lister is playing with an injured left shoulder that’s got an unholy amount of tape and bandaging on it.
– The quarter came to an end with a buzzer beating three from the corner by Portland’s Jerome Kersey. However, the Blazers find themselves in an early hole.
End of first quarter: Warriors 40, Trail Blazers 29
The fun continued for Mitch Richmond and the Warriors. Richmond still hasn’t missed, finishing the first half with 12-12 shooting for 28 points. They’re not all easy shots, either, he’s hit some tough layups in traffic, and some tough jumpers as well. The man’s just on fire, and so is the rest of his team. Golden State’s shooting at least 70% for the game, which is ridiculous, and they built their lead up as far as 29. More turnovers, and an obvious lack of defense are killing the Trail Blazers, which is unfortunate, because offensively, they’re not playing too terribly themselves.
Other second quarter highlights
– When Tom Tolbert checked into the game for the Warriors, our announcers called him “flakey”. They don’t elaborate on why.
– Also getting some playing time for the Warriors was current Indiana Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard.
Halftime: Warriors 82, Trail Blazers 58
The Warriors came back to Earth a little bit, missing their first seven shots, including a miss from Mitch Richmond, his first of the game. The Blazers also found their spirit a little bit, particularly towards the end of the quarter, where they went on an 11-0 run as the Warriors started getting a little sloppy with the basketball. Nevertheless, it’s still a big lead for Golden State as we head into the fourth quarter, though one of our announcers described as “tenuous” thanks to the Blazers inspired play.
Other third quarter highlights
– Our announcers have revealed themselves as Steve Albert (Marv’s brother) and Jim Barnett, a former player who suited up for both the Warriors and the Blazers in his day. In fact, while he was in Portland, he hit a ridiculous shot, prompting the Blazers announcer at the time to exclaim, “Rip City! All right!” The announcer has no idea why he yelled “Rip City” or what it even means, but that’s the reason why Portland’s called “Rip City”. The Blazers even wear alternate uniforms sometimes that say RIP CITY on them, and it’s all because of a goofy shot that Jim Barnett hit and a crazy announcer. That’s what these Throwback Thursday features are all about. Learning and sharing random stories from NBA folklore.
End of third quarter: Warriors 109, Trail Blazers 93
We start the final quarter in progress. A glimpse at the clock above the basket reveals we’re already about three minutes into it. It’s always an infuriating disappointment when this happens. I think other parts of this game have been skipped as well. Anyway, Portland continues to sort of chisel away at the lead, but they’ll have to carry on without starting point guard Terry Porter. He fouled out early on in the fourth quarter, having scored just eight points on the night. He’s barely played in the second half after picking up his fifth foul in the third quarter. Meanwhile, Mitch Richmond is still putting on a show, and his latest jumper matches his season high of 40 points and sends us into a time out.
7:19 remaining: Warriors 117, Trail Blazers 104
Goddamn it, we’re suddenly transported ahead to the latter stages of the game. During a time out, Steve Albert goes over the scoring prowess of the Warriors Big Three, known as Run TMC. Chris Mullin has 26 points, Mitch Richmond’s still got 40, and Tim Hardaway has 27, giving the trio an outstanding 93 points combined, well above their combined average of 74 points per game.
1:22 remaining: Warriors 132, Trail Blazers 121
Don’t ask me how we got to this point. Would have been nice to see, but I guess that’s too much to ask, or pay for here on NBA League Pass. I really shouldn’t complain, it’s pretty awesome they have these old games to watch. As the game winds down, the Warriors seem intent on letting things be just a little interesting, turning the ball over and missing free throws as the desperate Blazers try to cut into the lead. They can’t quite do it though, and this one comes to an end. In the final minute, Chris Mullin was seen with a bandage underneath his eye, courtesy of a Kevin Duckworth elbow, according to Steve Albert. Must have happened during one of the parts of the game we skipped. The focal point of this broadcast was Mitch Richmond’s big game, and once he scored his final basket, we were suddenly whisked to the very end of the game. I could go on a mammoth tirade about how I hate having to miss portions of the game, or, I could talk about how great the Run TMC Warriors were. Let’s go with the Run TMC Warriors.
Final Score: Warriors 136, Trail Blazers 126
Mitch Richmond finished the ball game with 40 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists on 16-19 shooting, no doubt one of the finest nights of his great career. Tim Hardaway finished with 29 points and 11 assists, while Chris Mullin ended the game with 26 points and one bandage.
Jerome Kersey was the high scorer for Portland, going for 35 while also grabbing five rebounds. Clyde Drexler added 30 points, 7 rebounds and 11 assists, and Kevin Duckworth, who shoots his jumpers with one arm, scored 21 and grabbed five boards.
The Warriors were able to rest on the laurels of their hot first half. They were outscored 68-54 in the second half, but they had built such a cushion with that outstanding first half, it didn’t matter. If they played five quarters, Portland might have overtaken them, but, there can only be four quarters, and that’s a scientific fact.
This was a great game to watch because it’s a prime example of Run TMC at their best. Chris Mullin, Mitch Richmond and Tim Hardaway were one of the most explosive and fun trios in NBA history, and unfortunately, one of the most short lived. They played just two seasons together before Richmond was traded to the Kings. I often wonder what might have been if they had kept that team together throughout the 1990s. It’s the sort of thing that keeps me up at night.
Portland would finish the season with the league’s best record, 63-19. The Warriors would finish 44-38, coming in seventh in the Western Conference. However, they’d upset the Spurs in the first round before falling to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Semifinals. After that, the Lakers would face the Blazers in the Western Conference Finals, defeating them in six games to advance to the Finals. Something tells me this won’t be the last time we see either of these teams here on The Bonus, so keep your eyes open for more exciting early 1990s NBA action.