The last time the Portland Trail Blazers’ fans enjoyed a second-round playoff series they were watching the likes of Rasheed Wallace, Scottie Pippen, Steve Smith, Damon Stoudamire and Arvydas Sabonis. That season the Blazers made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals before losing a tough series to the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers 4-3. Since this appearance there have been playoff berths but no playoff series victories … until Friday night.
In what is being deemed by some to be “the most exciting six-game series of all time” the Blazers were able to snatch victory by the throat on more than one occasion, sending the Houston Rockets home for the rest of the postseason. Want to know how close it was? The final tally over the six-game series was Portland 670, Houston 672 — they were separated by a total of two points over the series! Good thing for the Blazers the NBA doesn’t score on aggregate!
LaMarcus Aldridge got the early headlines with his back-to-back 40-point outbursts, but Damian Lillard was, and is, the star of this team. The kid just shows so much poise for being a second-year player, it’s just unreal. Coming into this game Lillard was one of three players to average at least 25 points, five rebounds and five assists through their first five playoff games of their career — the other two were LeBron James and Michael Jordan. He had 31 points in the opening game of the series, which was his playoff debut, and his consistency just fueled the Blazers throughout this series.
In the end it was another game-winning shot by Damian Lillard that saved the Blazers from having to play a tough Game 7 back in Houston. Check it out here:
Mike Tirico said it best, “the kid with the big guts …” and that’s exactly who Lillard has been all season. Fans and Twitter followers alike refer to the fourth quarter as #LillardTime and he proves it to us time and time again. For the series he finished with ridiculous averages of 25.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.7 assists with shooting splits of .468/.489/.875 and a true shooting percentage of 66.5 percent! For reference, league average is approximately 53.9 percent for TS%.
Aldridge finished his great series with averages of 29.8 points and 11.2 rebounds. Batum was great with his all-around play and finished at 15.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.2 assists. I have to get a line in here about Robin Lopez because he was simply a beast down low against Dwight Howard — he had times where he was clearly over matched but I cannot overstate how important he was to the Blazers this series, and how much of a factor his presence will be moving forward as well.
Now, we wait. The Dallas Mavericks play in San Antonio Sunday against the Spurs and the winner of that game will face the Blazers. If the Mavs win then the Blazers will have home court advantage and if the Spurs win, then they will have to win it on the road like they did in this round.
Who knows how far the Blazers can go, but one thing is for certain — you will see exciting basketball no matter who they play and hopefully Lillard will be grabbing a mic and yelling “RIP CITY!!” at the end of the series.