PORTLAND, ORE., JUNE 8 -- Outside respect is gradually creeping into the NBA Finals. The Detroit Pistons were always wary of the Portland Trail Blazers; it just took the rest of the country a little while to catch up.

Now the finals are tied at one game apiece after Portland's 106-105 overtime victory late Thursday night. As the series shifts here for three games beginning Sunday, who'd have thought the challengers could lament not being up 2-0 instead of just being tied?

"We don't really care about anybody else," said guard Terry Porter, who set a finals record in Game 2 by making 15 of 15 free throws. "The 12 or 13 guys who have been involved with this ballclub know how good we are. We beat some very good teams. Nobody's going to believe how good we are until we beat the world champions.

"There's nothing we can do about that. We played San Antonio; we had a better record than them all year. Everybody said we couldn't beat them. We played Phoenix; we had a better record than Phoenix. Everybody said we couldn't beat Phoenix. It's just one story on top of another."

Portland's confidence remained high after blowing Game 1. It appeared as if something similar would happen at the end of Game 2, as Detroit took a three-point lead with 49 seconds left. But the Trail Blazers survived that and three three-pointers from Bill Laimbeer in the overtime.

"So many of these games are won from a mental viewpoint," forward Buck Williams said. "Who can hold out the longest? Who can continue to come back after being devastated? We were devastated a couple of times where it seemed we had lost the game. But our mental toughness showed and our character showed."

The Trail Blazers overcame Detroit's late spurt in regulation to force the overtime. Laimbeer, who tied a finals record with six three-pointers, made consecutive three-point shots in overtime, putting the Pistons ahead by 102-98 with 1:30 left. But Portland scored six straight points to take the lead on Williams's free throws with 9.6 seconds remaining.

Incredibly, Laimbeer threw in another three-pointer with 4.1 seconds left, floating to the open spot on the floor and shooting a 27-footer that swished through. But Clyde Drexler's second free throw with 2.1 seconds remaining gave Portland the margin of victory, as James Edwards missed a baseline jumper at the buzzer.

Detroit has work to do. First and foremost is getting rid of its 20-game losing streak here. While it has as much relevance to these teams as former Trail Blazer LaRue Martin and Pistons Hall-of-Famer Bob Lanier have, there it remains. The Pistons haven't won here since Oct. 19, 1974. Isiah Thomas was not yet in high school; Williams had not yet enrolled at the University of Maryland.

Portland beat Detroit at Memorial Coliseum by 20 points earlier this season.

"I think it's the ultimate challenge," Thomas said, "to go in a place where we haven't won and try to win a basketball game."

Second for Detroit is finding some way to inject health into the throbbing left ankle of Dennis Rodman. He's gamely going out there, but not only can he not get to loose balls for points, he's being beaten cleanly out front. That's what happened when Drexler got the step on him that forced the foul that led to the winning free throws. Normally, Rodman eats up that situation. He'll get the angle somehow on the drive and take the charge.

But against Drexler, he was reduced to handchecking.

"I keep trying to kid myself that thing is going to do better," said Rodman, who's getting hours of treatment between games. "But this is the worst it has felt in a while. I keep hoping to find a way to get through this. But I can't. I keep putting {us} in a hole."

Detroit's entire defensive scheme is built around Rodman's all-out harassment, his ability to shut down the hot opponent and switch off in time to give weakside help. Otherwise, his teammates can't overplay and shut off passing lanes, and they're forced to defend one-on-one.

Third for Detroit is finding out what's ailing its scorers off the bench, particularly guard Vinnie Johnson. He's one of 10 in the series after a one-of-four performance Thursday. Throw in seven-of-23 shooting from Mark Aguirre and you have almost no points in reserve.

It's not likely Portland will allow Laimbeer six three-pointers again.

"I can't figure {Johnson} out," Detroit Coach Chuck Daly said. "I really can't. I don't know what the problem is. He's not aggressive offensively. It's hard to figure at this point."

If Aguirre and Johnson aren't scoring, there's precious little difference between Detroit's bench strength and Portland's, and that was supposed to be one of the Pistons' big advantages in the series.

But just as it was premature to announce the series over after Game 1, so it is to give the championship to the Trail Blazers after one victory. It would be an amazing accomplishment for Portland to win three straight and keep the series from going back to Detroit for possible sixth and seventh games.

"We have to go into their building and win the first one," center James Edwards said. "We're going to regroup and come back strong. Believe me."