PHOENIX, MAY 26 -- Phoenix Suns guard Kevin Johnson is angry about as often as he is penurious. "I don't get mad," said Johnson, who recently loaned an elderly Phoenix woman he did not know several hundred dollars to make utility payments.
But Johnson did develop what he called "a little bit more of an attitude" before the Suns' 123-89 victory over Portland in Game 3 of the NBA Western Conference finals here Friday night, the Suns' first victory in the best-of-seven series.
Game 4 is here Sunday (3:30 p.m. EDT, WUSA-TV-9). Portland leads the series, two games to one.
"I started thinking the season is almost over if we get another loss, and I'm not ready for this to end," Johnson said.
"No matter how well we play in future years, we may never get this close again. This is too good to let slip through our fingers. Any time you see something slipping away, you get a little more angry. You have to put your foot down and say, 'I don't want to let this go.' I was very angry. I was as focused as I've been in a long time."
For the first game in three, Johnson outplayed Trail Blazers point guard Terry Porter, whose pass set up the winning basket in Portland's 100-98 Game 1 victory and whose two baskets (over Johnson) in the final 28 seconds led to a 108-107 Game 2 victory.
Johnson had 17 points and 12 assists, but played only 24 minutes Friday as the Suns' lead reached 40-18 after one period and 79-43 with three minutes elapsed in the third. Porter had six points in 27 minutes.
"Kevin is our leader. It was up to him to take responsibility," Suns forward Kurt Rambis said.
"Terry had been playing extremely well," Johnson said. "It's so important for me to do the type of things he was doing the last two games. We're similar in our contributions to the teams. Terry is still up, two to one."
Said Porter: "You just have to forget about this game. We always knew that Phoenix was a good ball club. We didn't say we were going to come down here and pound on them and beat them with ease. This series is a long way from over."
Johnson ran a Suns offense that made 30 of 39 shots in the first half and was still shooting 70 percent through three quarters.
But the Trail Blazers say they are not as concerned with the Suns' shooting -- "Phoenix just had a great game," guard Clyde Drexler said -- as with their road sense.
Portland won a franchise-record 24 regular season road games and closed out its opening playoff series with a victory in Dallas, but since has lost four straight road games -- by 23, 10 and 15 at San Antonio and by 34 here.
"This is frustrating," Portland's Buck Williams said. "We feel we are a better road team than we have displayed. Our record has proven it. Somewhere down the line, we are going to play a lot better on the road."
"Somehow we've got to figure out why we won 24 games on the road in the regular season," Coach Rick Adelman said.
The Trail Blazers made only 36 percent of their shots in Game 3, although almost half of those were taken by reserves as both teams rested their starters most of the final 16 minutes.y are still in a good situation. They still have the home court. They still have the opportunity to get one here. They still have one or two games to play with," Johnson said.