Just minutes into the anticipated Game 6 showdown, the Portland Trail Blazers led the Rockets 7-0 and the Moda Center was rocking. After a moment of silence honoring Dr. Jack Ramsey, a raucous starting lineup introduction, and a fast start to the game, it felt like it was going to be the Blazers’ night. Little did anyone know what was to come.
Fast forward a couple hours, seconds after Damian Lillard hit a game-winning, series-clinching 3 point shot. The lady next to me is in tears, the couple in front of me are high fiving everyone within reach, a guy behind me jumped on his seat dropping his AM radio, and the husband to my right was telling his wife how historic that shot was.
All throughout the series there was a feeling like this year might be special. When the second-year point guard came off the screen of his teammates, clapped for the ball, and hit the off balance 3 pointer, he truly wrote his own chapter in the Rip City history book.
The last time the Portland Trail Blazers advanced to the second round of the playoffs, I was 11 years old. Which means Nicolas Batum was 11 years old, Wesley Matthews was 13, Robin Lopez was 12, LaMarcus Aldridge was 14 and Lillard was 9!
Approximately 15% of the entire population of the Portland metro area were not born in 2000 when the Blazers advanced in the playoffs last!
When put into perspective, that shot by Lillard that led to the berth into the second round of the Western Conference playoffs was absolutely legendary. It may be a shot that we look back on as a true franchise-changing shot.
Friday night Lillard said, “That’s definitely the biggest shot of my life … so far.”
It may just as well be the biggest Blazer shot of this generation.
Lillard garnered comparisons to Brandon Roy, John Stockton and many other greats of the game. Not bad for a second-year player in the first playoff series of his NBA career. During that series, he averaged 25.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 1.3 steals in almost 45 minutes a game. If that weren’t enough, Lillard shot 44.7% from the field, 48.9% from beyond the arc and 87.5% from the free throw line.
Along with Lillard’s fantastic series, Aldridge didn’t disappoint either. Aldridge averaged 29.8 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.7 blocks in 41.2 minutes in round one. Aldridge was lauded for leading the Blazers past the Rockets in the first two games of the series, Lillard sure closed it out!
After the epic first round, the expectations for this team have really been raised. The Portland Trail Blazers are headed straight for the reigning Western Conference champion San Antonio Spurs. The veteran Spurs team that is known for their quintessential fundamentally sound basketball. They are a well-rounded team that has a fantastic supporting cast coming off the bench.
For the Trail Blazers to compete and win the series, they will need Lillard to continue to step up when the lights are the brightest. Stars can make baskets, superstars make baskets when it matters. Damian Lillard is Portland’s newest superstar!