PORTLAND, ORE., MAY 29 -- For the Portland Trail Blazers it was once more, with feeling. They returned tonight to their home court, Memorial Coliseum, with few believing they could hold off the Phoenix Suns one more time -- with one more, last-minute rush of emotion and heroics.

But it happened again, for the third thrilling time this series. Trailing by 106-101 with 6:24 to play -- and still down in the final minute -- the Trail Blazers went on to win, 120-114, by making seven of eight free throws in the final 35 seconds, and thus taking a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals.

Game 6 will be Thursday night in Phoenix. Should the Suns win, Game 7 would be Saturday afternoon, back in the Trail Blazers' land of sugar-coated dreams and fairy-tale endings.

"I really don't think we're in over our heads in this series," said Portland Coach Rick Adelman, mindful that the Suns twice ambushed the Trail Blazers -- once embarrassingly so -- in Phoenix. "And I think we can compete with this team and win one more."

Said Phoenix Coach Cotton Fitzsimmons, when asked if this latest loss might lead the Suns to be a little uneasy in Portland: "Not at all, not at all. I think it's about time they {the Trail Blazers} quit hiding behind the umbrella of their home court. We don't feel we're snake-bit at all."

The Suns have lost 21 in a row in Memorial Coliseum, dating from April 26, 1984.

Tonight's finish befitted what had been a marvelously tense battle between two teams who, if nothing else, proved their toughness. There were a couple of moments when the Trail Blazers could have folded, and about a half-dozen occasions when the Suns could have, but in the end, neither did.

The Suns were down by 81-71 with 5:20 left in the third quarter, and 91-84 at the end of the quarter, but came back to take a 106-101 lead. Then came a crucial turn of events: Clyde Drexler, who led the Trail Blazers with 32 points, hit a straightaway three-pointer while Kevin Duckworth was being fouled by Suns' center Mark West underneath the basket. Duckworth made the free throw, for a four-point play, and the Phoenix lead was down to one, 106-105. To make matters worse, the foul was West's fifth, and he went to the bench.

From there it went back and forth until finally the Trail Blazers broke through in the final 35 seconds, with two free throws each by Drexler, Buck Williams and Terry Porter -- who had 19 points and 12 assists -- and one by Jerome Kersey, who had 21 points and a team-high 11 rebounds.

During that time, the Suns failed to score.

"I really thought tonight was our night," said Kevin Johnson, the Suns' brilliant playmaker who led his team with 28 points and 14 assists, yet missed his final two jumpers. "I thought without a doubt, with 2 1/2 minutes left, that we were going to win the game. I mean, because of the law of averages, if nothing else."

In Game 1 of this series, the Suns lost by 100-98. In Game 2, they blew a 22-point lead before losing, 108-107. "It's frustrating," said forward Tom Chambers, who shot six for 21 and seemed to shy away from the ball in the final two minutes. "Tonight, at the start, we stunk, we couldn't shoot, we couldn't do anything right. But there we were, with the lead in the fourth quarter. I really felt it was our turn, our opportunity to win."

It figured that both teams would treat Game 5 as something akin to sudden death. The Trail Blazers have been awful on the road of late -- they've lost five in a row by an average of 19 points per defeat -- and with a loss tonight, would have been facing the sad reality of having to win in Phoenix to prolong their season.

As for the Suns, the situation was slightly less desperate. They came into this contest with a 4-4 road record in the playoffs, but this loss leaves them no choice but to win Game 6 at home, and then win Game 7 here.

The Suns were the first to take charge, taking a 17-9 lead with barely five minutes elapsed, and Adelman called a timeout. Whatever he said, it appeared to work. With Porter leading the way, Portland went on a 16-1 run. Porter had a pair of three-pointers and a two-pointer, accounting for half of the Trail Blazers' points, and Kevin Duckworth had four in the spurt. The Suns' point came on a technical foul called on Portland for its second delay-of-game violation.

The Suns briefly blunted the run, but finally, Drexler broke out, for the first time this series. With the Trail Blazers leading by 29-24, Drexler -- who came into this game shooting 44 percent for the series and 40 percent for the playoffs -- scored 16 of his team's next 35 points on a variety of shots: drives, tap-ins, even a jumpshot.

The Trail Blazers needed all of Drexler's offense. There were flashes when it seemed as if the Suns were on the verge of putting the game out of reach. But the Trail Blazers never did lose contact, and at halftime they were up by seven.

"He was due to have a good game," Fitzsimmons said. "Clyde Drexler is an all-star, and he was due."