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Blazers-Rockets Game 1: Damian Lillard, sub zero in the clutch

By Royce Young | NBA writer

More postseason coverage: Playoff schedule, results | Court Vision insight

Throughout the NBA regular season, there weren't many players more clutch than Damian Lillard. "Clutch time" is defined as the final five minutes with the margin within five, and Lillard finished fifth in the league with 148 points on a ridiculous 47.3 percent shooting.

Down three with 29 seconds left, Lillard calmly, cooly let Terrence Jones fly by on a smooth pump fake, then double-clutched and drained a game-tying 3.

The Rockets scored the first six points in overtime, exterminating all the momentum the Trail Blazers had going into the extra frame. And with his Blazers in a seemingly impossible spot after watching LaMarcus Aldridge foul out -- who set a franchise record with 46 points, along with 18 rebounds -- Lillard took the game over.

Lillard scored five of his 31 points in the final 44 seconds, three on a splendid baseline and-1 move, two other after beating his man and drawing a foul at the rim. The Blazers had found themselves on the wrong side of a few whistles, and were trying to survive without their best player. When Aldridge was forced to the bench, along with Robin Lopez who had the Dwight Howard assignment, it essentially appeared the Blazers were done.

But Lillard, in his first postseason game, showed he doesn't just have onions. He has onions made of brass, the size of pumpkins. And in the postseason, that's how to survive. The best offense in a critical spot is to give the ball to a player that can create his own shot, and has the capability to make that shot.

"That was a questionable last foul call on me," Aldridge said. "I went to Dame and said, 'Take it over.'"

Some blame falls on the Rockets here, too. After Patrick Beverley fouled out, it should've been mission critical to bracket and trap Lillard on any catch. Instead, the Rockets seemed to invite his isolation, and he easily beat his man off the dribble, drawing a foul for those two big free throws.

"I've said it all along, I'm just going to be myself," Lillard said. "I'm not going to try and do too much. But I'm going to be aggressive. I came out and just played aggressive and let the game come to me and played in the flow and trusted the game would work out."

Terry Stotts said it postgame that the goal was a singular win in Houston, and that's now been accomplished. Game 2 is where you get greedy and try to capitalize on your situation. Aldridge played one of the best games in playoff franchise history, and the defense of Nicolas Batum on James Harden could be a series difference-maker.

But where the Blazers' engine runs is with No. 0, the smooth operator, the new king of clutch. He's not ice cold; he's sub zero.

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