It's a fairly safe assumption that programmers at Channel 2 have become Portland Trail Blazers fans, albeit temporarily.
The Trail Blazers, who meet the Los Angeles Lakers in the sixth game of the NBA's Western Conference championship series tonight, can force a seventh and deciding game Saturday with a victory tonight.
They also can spare Channel 2 the wrath of angry basketball fans who could miss the first game of a dream matchup pitting Magic Johnson of the Lakers against Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls in the best-of-seven league championship series.
Here's the situation, according to Emily Barr, WMAR's director of broadcast operations: If Portland wins tonight's game -- which will be joined in progress likely in the fourth quarter after the Orioles-Boston match -- the station will join the seventh game Saturday afternoon, probably in the second quarter, after that day's Orioles-Boston game.
But, if the Lakers win tonight, the NBA championship series will begin Sunday from Chicago and Channel 2 will not carry that first game because the station will be televising the Children's Miracle Network Telethon. The station will carry all other games of the championship series live. And if the series starts after Sunday, Channel 2 will carry Game 1 as well.
"If Portland wins [tonight], things
will be calm," said Barr. "This is unfortunate, but we're trying to make it work for everyone."
Barr said station programmers were thrown by the relatively short lengths of the playoff series, figuring that each would last either six or seven games and that the title series would begin next Wednesday.
In fact, if Portland does force a seventh game, the championship would start next Wednesday.
However, of the six playoff se
ries that were best-of-seven affairs, only two (Portland-Los Angeles and Detroit-Boston) lasted at least six games, thus moving the other series ahead.
"Everything got moved ahead," said Barr. "A day or two is all it takes to throw things off."
Barr said NBC, which is televising the NBA for the first time, sent out a tentative schedule last October, which the station used to plan for spring telecasts, including the
She said WMAR programmers knew that this weekend's telethon would cause a conflict, but they believed that they would be missing the seventh game of a conference final series and not a game in the league championship series.
Barr said that the station cannot tape-delay the game, as NBC will not allow its affiliates to tape one network program to show over another.