Done with the Rockets, and the Blazers are looking dangerous
There were doubts about the Blazers all season long. And with one shot, they answered every single one of them, and then some. Now, who's next?
Damian Lillard hit the kind of shot that you're going to see in every NBA playoff montage for the next 50 years. If the NBA could frame a GIF, they'd take that one and send it to Springfield to roll as you walk in the doors of the Hall of Fame. It was a near perfect buzzer-beater, the kind that has a jarring suddenness to it. One team's season is done, just like that. Another's continues on.
The Trail Blazers finished the Rockets in six games in a series that couldn't have been closer. Three overtime games, and the final one was headed for it too, until Chandler Parsons broke the deadlock with 0.9 seconds left, to which Lillard answered with a splash from 30 feet. Just a ridiculous series with about 50 massive, monumental moments.
Throughout this season, the Blazers have remained mostly a surprise, with us all asking ourselves periodically throughout the campaign if they were for real or not. They sat atop the Western Conference for two months, before injuries and fatigue actually put a small scare in that they might miss the playoffs altogether.
But the plan for the postseason was simple: With one of the most potent, offensive-minded starting fives in the entire league, Terry Stotts could shorten his inconsistent bench down and rely on the horses that had them rolling back in November and December. LaMarcus Aldridge was an unstoppable beast, Wesley Matthews dogged James Harden all over the court, Nicolas Batum was a big shot waiting to happen and Lillard, well, Lillard sub zero all series long.
A five beating a four really isn't much of an upset, but considering the expectations for this Blazer team coming into the season, it feels a bit like a Cinderella story. They're still pretty young in some ways, with a core of veterans that have never been able to take the necessary steps towards being known as winners.
Now, they move on to the second round. And with the talent they possess and the clutch monster in Lillard ready to close games, they aren't done quite yet. This isn't some flash-in-the-pan playoff story. This is a well-built team with star talent and a bunch of toughness and guts. Lillard's shot send the Rockets packing and the Blazers moving on, but it also should send a chill down the back of the rest of the West's playoff participants. The Blazers? Yeah, they're definitely for real.
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