Fire 45-37 (2-6)
Blizzard 50-32 (6-2)
|Score (click for boxscore)||Game MVP||Hi Points||Hi Rebounds||Hi Assists|
|1. Blizzard 145, Fire 144||Clyde Drexler||31 Larry Nance||15 Kevin Willis||13 Clyde Drexler|
|2. Blizzard 154, Fire 148||Clyde Drexler||35 Dominique Wilkins||16 Karl Malone||17 Clyde Drexler|
|3. Blizzard 135, Fire 124||Clyde Drexler||30 Tom Chambers||18 Clyde Drexler||14 Clyde Drexler|
|4. Fire 139, Blizzard 131||Dominique Wilkins||35 Dominique Wilkins||15 Karl Malone||8 J.Moore/L.Drew|
|5. Blizzard 155, Fire 141||Clyde Drexler||40 Tom Chambers||12 Karl Malone||16 Clyde Drexler|
Game 1 – Two Division rivals meet in Buffalo, with the Blizzard having the regular season 6-2 edge. The first quarter looked like an MMA match. By the end of the 1st, Malone(3), Kareem(2), and Nance(2) were all in foul trouble. The first half saw 10 lead changes. Turpin and Jones, off the bench, led the Fire. Clyde the Glide led all scorers with 19 at the half. The Fire had a 2 point half time lead 69-67. In the 3rdQ the Blizzard quickly took the lead and continued to build that lead to 14 points by late in the quarter. In the 4thQ the Fire would come back to within 2 points several times. In the final minute, Larry Nance converted on a 3 point play which brought the Fire to within 1. But that was it. Buffalo prevailed 145-144. Chambers led the Blizzard with 29. Nance led all scorers with 31.
Game 2 – Kareem and Nance suffer early foul trouble once again. The Blizzard blinded the Fire in the first, scoring 48 points. Although the Fire flickered, the embers ignited in the 2nd with the Fire taking a 73-71 halftime lead. The Fire maintained the lead through the third and extended it to six. The Fire held on halfway through the 4th, but the Blizzard fought back to take the lead at the 6:55 mark. The lead changed hands several times in the last minutes, but the Blizzard prevailed 154-148. Karl Malone was the MVP with 33 and 16. Dominique scored 35 for Philly.
Game 3 – The Buffalo Blizzard could not have envisioned this scenario two years ago, now holding the higher seed in the playoffs against a Philadelphia Fire team that blazed to a world championship less than 24 months ago following a spectacular regular season record of 68-14. Buffalo by contrast had just bumbled at that time to its sixth straight losing season since the franchise’s inception with a nearly inverse and dreadful record of 18-64. A chance falling in the lap number one lottery drawing that became Karl Malone however has complemented an improving Blizzard nucleus and changed the team’s fortunes enough to enable it to post its first two winning seasons since. The games between Buffalo and Philadelphia have been wild and close Chamberlain division affairs through the years, even despite a clear talent disparity that largely has favored the Fire; 300-point games have hardly been uncommon if one looks back. With such unpredictable high-octane contests and the Fire still boasting legends by the name of Wilkins, Abdul-Jabbar and Nance, Blizzard coaching considered its team to be the underdog even despite the higher no. 4 seed. In fact, the Buffalo game plan for game 3 on the road was to sit two key cogs in starting point guard Johnny Moore and center Bill Cartwright as a usage move specifically to preserve them in the event they are needed in a game 7. Buffalo, which was fortunate to survive its first two playoff games ever at home against the Fire, stuck to that load management strategy as it entered the city of Brotherly Love. Philadelphia seemingly capitalized off that scenario early and grabbed a 12-6 lead in the first three minutes of play as the captain, Kareem led the way with eight early points during the run, as the Fire looked poised to crawl back into this series. Buffalo rallied midway through the quarter, and after a Clyde Drexler free throw with 5:06 remaining in the first quarter pushed the Blizzard ahead 16-15 and it was lead Buffalo maintained through the rest of the period for a 39-35 advantage entering the second quarter. The Blizzard kept the lead throughout the second quarter for a 67-60 halftime edge. The game remained nip and tuck through most of the second half even though Buffalo maintained the lead; a pair of baskets from the Fire’s Johnny Dawkins pulled Philadelphia within 113-109 with 6:40 left in the fourth. But a pivotal 13-4 Blizzard run from there gave Buffalo the cushion it needed to prevail 135-124 and grab the three games to none lead in this series. Buffalo never trailed after it grabbed that first quarter lead even as the Fire kept the game razor-thin close. Drexler stepped up when it counted most for the Blizzard, with an outstanding Hall of Fame worthy triple-double performance: 28 points, 14 assists, and a surprising 18 rebounds. Tom Chambers finished with 30 points to lead all scorers. The younger Blizzard controlled the boards, outrebounding their hosts 74-57, which proved to be a key difference. Philadelphia got a balanced scoring effort with all five starters reaching double figures led by Wilkins who had 28 followed by 20 by Larry Nance. But with key rotation players out, the Blizzard got the bench performance it desperately needed, with its subs outscoring Philly’s 43-31. Even end of bench center Chris Engler, deployed for this game with Cartwright out, joined the fray with nine points and six rebounds.
Game 4 – The Buffalo Blizzard realized full well entering the Spectrum in Philadelphia with a 3-0 lead in these playoffs that the Fire would not be extinguished into the dark of the offseason without a fight. Buffalo went into Game 4 with a full arsenal, with Johnny Moore, Bill Cartwright and Chris McNealy back after sitting out during the prior 135-124 win. Still, the Blizzard slept walked in the early moments following the opening tip. The Fire, recognizing what was at stake, rampaged out to a 14-3 lead with all five starters getting involved and on the scoreboard with the opening run. That fast start culminated with a 40-33 Philadelphia lead by the end of the first quarter, with Larry Drew (14 points total with eight assists) leading the way in the quarter with 10 points and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar adding 9 of his 16 total points for the early spark from the Captain. The Fire enjoyed another fast start in the second, embarking on a 21-12 run to seize a commanding 61-45 lead midway through the period and by halftime that was extended to 81-60. Dominique Wilkins went off for 13 points in the period as Philadelphia outscored Buffalo 41-27 for that second quarter. But Buffalo, led by 11 third quarter points from Cartwright (he finished with 18 in total), rallied in dramatic fashion in the third period. The Blizzard cut its deficit to 105-100 with two seconds left in the quarter prior to an underhand layup at the buzzer from the Fire’s Terry Tyler putting Philadelphia ahead by just seven entering the fourth. The teams traded baskets for much of the fourth quarter, yet Buffalo continued to claw away. Clyde Drexler’s dunk with 4:09 left in the period brought Buffalo to within 123-120. But a 10-2 Fire run from there ended the Blizzard comeback hopes: Philadelphia started strong, finished strong and staved off elimination with a 139-131 victory. Wilkins was the MVP with 35 points, nine rebounds and seven assists and Larry Nance added 22 points. While being outshot (48 percent to 47 percent) from the field, this aging Philadelphia squad seemed to find its legs and won the fastbreak points battle, 24-18 while forcing Buffalo to commit 19 turnovers. From a scoring standpoint the Blizzard were led by its backcourt: Moore shined in the losing effort with a surprising 24-point output and Drexler added 22. The game was an abysmal aberration for the Blizzard’s top regular season scorer, Tom Chambers (22.1 ppg), in getting thoroughly outplayed and outscored by his opposing small forward, Wilkins, 35-2. The Blizzard needed more than the two of 131 Buffalo total points Chambers provided in the disastrous showing and Buffalo may have mustered up enough to win with anything respectable from him. But Chambers (one for just five shots from the field) collected two early fouls in the first two minutes, picked up a third personal in the early moments of the second quarter and remained hamstrung by foul trouble throughout, logging just 16:09 for the game before ultimately fouling out. Meanwhile, the series clearly hung much more in the balance as the final horn sounded. The evenly-matched Fire, with momentum, can find new life with just one road win against this Blizzard squad prone to letdowns and force a game 6 back at the Spectrum. This could get very interesting quickly.
Game 5 – The Fire faced elimination at home in Game 4 and prevailed. Now they would have to do it again in a hostile arena. The Fire carried their momentum into the 1st quarter, outscoring the Blizzard 37-33. Tom Chambers sizzled in the 2nd, scoring 12 and propelling the Blizzard to a 72-67 half time lead. The Fire would have been blown away by half time if it wasn’t for Mel Turpin, who scored 14 off the bench in the quarter. The Fire outscored the Blizzard 37-36 in the 3rd period, moving to within four of the Blizzard as the quarter ended. Chambers(15), Karl Malone(14) and Clyde Drexler(10) were relentless in the final frame. The Fire was extinguished by the Blizzard’s Big Three. The final score was 155-141. Chambers led all scorers with 40. The Mailman delivered 30 with 12 boards. Drexler had a triple double with 24 points, 16 assists, and 10 rebounds. Larry Nance scored 34 for the Fire, but fouled out in the 4th. The high scoring Blizzard moves on to the next round, taking the series 4-1.