PHOENIX, MAY 31 -- Buck Williams hugged everyone in sight. He hugged Paul Allen, the computer-whiz owner of the Portland Trail Blazers. He hugged team executive Bucky Buckwalter. He hugged players Wayne Cooper and Nate Johnston, assistant coaches John Wetzel and Jack Schalow.

Because they all had, in one way or another, rescued him from basketball oblivion in New Jersey. Now, after the Trail Blazers clinched their Western Conference final, 4-2, with a 112-109 victory tonight over the Phoenix Suns, he is going to the NBA finals for the first time in his nine-year career.

"I stayed there in New Jersey," he said. "I didn't complain. I worked hard. And I knew that destiny would have me go up to bigger and better things. This season has really been a godsend. . . . This has been the best break for me and my family."

Williams has been there all season, the rock that these Trail Blazers never had. Tonight he made the biggest defensive play, stripping Tom Chambers of the ball with seven seconds left and Portland clinging to a one-point lead it had just gotten on a transition layin by Jerome Kersey with 27.2 seconds left.

Williams wound up with the ball, on the floor, and got it to Clyde Drexler with 6.8 seconds left. Drexler (23 points) was fouled and made both free throws, and Jeff Hornacek, who had played heroically in place of injured Kevin Johnson, missed a three-pointer with two seconds left that would have tied.

It put Portland in the finals for the first time since 1977, when the Trail Blazers won the championship. For five of the previous six seasons, they had lost in the first round of the playoffs. Their character had been questioned. But they hung in tonight, though they were just 1-5 on the road in postseason.

"Without a doubt, we've grown a lot," said guard Terry Porter, who also scored 23 points. He's part of the nucleus of four (Drexler, Kersey and center Kevin Duckworth) who had suffered through most of the playoff defeats and questions.

Hornacek scored a career-high 36 points, 21 of which came after Johnson left the game for good with 3:53 left in the first half. He scored on a drive to the basket, but fell over Duckworth hard and strained his left hamstring. After a minute, he went to the dressing room, and though he sat on the bench in the second half he had no chance of playing.

"We talked about it," Phoenix Coach Cotton Fitzsimmons said, "but it was hurting bad. If you're going to play {against} Terry Porter you have to be completely healthy. I just told him to be extremely honest with me, and he was, and we made that decision."

Said Johnson: "I was saying all the prayer words I know. They just didn't have a phone in the locker room."

Chambers finished the final two games of the playoffs shooting 11 of 37 (.297) from the floor, including tonight's five-for-16 performance. But he did score all of his 17 points in the second half, when the Suns did everything possible trying to force a seventh game in Portland Sunday.

Hornacek made 11 of 22 from the floor, and was 14 of 14 from the line. Phoenix had a prohibitive 39-25 edge in made free throws, and 16 of 20 from the foul line in the third quarter kept them ahead, 89-84, after three.

But the Trail Blazers persevered, despite losing Porter, Cliff Robinson and Kersey to their fourth fouls for much of the period. Reserve guard Drazen Petrovic scored seven points in two minutes to start the fourth, and Portland was back on top.

With Dan Majerle (22 points) forced into starter's minutes, the Suns really had no backups for him or Hornacek. They gutted out as much as they could, but, ironically, because of the foul trouble, the Trail Blazers came back with a fresh Porter and Kersey in the fourth.

"In the fourth quarter, I thought we would win the game," Hornacek said. "They came out and did a good job of running right at us. Their guys, Porter and Kersey, got out on the break . . . they got a couple of other fast-break layups. They kept the pressure on us."

The game seesawed down the stretch, but Phoenix looked in good shape when Chambers made one of two foul shots with four minutes left, giving the Suns a 105-99 lead. But Porter hit one of his four three-pointers, and Kersey's layin at 2:49 made it a one-point game again. Later, Phoenix pushed the lead back to three, 109-106, on Hornacek's free throws with 1:09 remaining.

Porter made free throws with 55.1 seconds left. With the shot clock winding down at the other end, Hornacek drove the lane. Kersey flashed out and blocked the shot, starting a three-on-one break that he finished with the game-winning basket.

"I was on the weak side," Kersey said. "It was just a defensive weak side rotation. I went for the block and I got my hands on the ball. That's all it was. It was just something I was supposed to do. My job."

On the last play, Chambers squared up with the ball, as he had most of the series against Williams. But this time, as Chambers began his move, Williams swiped at the ball, and came up with it.

Chambers thought he was fouled.

"That's just the way it is," he said. "They're not going to call that. I was posting up at the beginning of the play and I wound up in three-point land. I didn't walk myself out there."

Among the Trail Blazers, there was only joy. And hugging for everyone who wanted one by a most grateful 6-foot-8 forward. "I don't want to think about the next series," Williams said. "I just want to enjoy this."