In sports, we live for the great ones. We remember the great ones.
When did the Portland Trail Blazers’ game one broadside across the bow of the increasingly unlikable Houston Rockets become a great one? There are a lot of correct answers, as Terry Stotts said in his post-game press conference.
But you knew for sure that it was a great one when the Portland Police department tweeted, "We don’t normally endorse theft, but stealing 1 from the @HoustonRockets is just fine with us."
And I don’t normally endorse generalizations, but we need a rule that all NBA playoff games that go over three hours go straight to ESPN Classic.
The Blazers and Rockets played forever on Sunday night. That game started after 8:30 PM local time, so Monday morning for folks in Houston started driving home from the Toyota Center as Antonio Harvey crowed in the background, "I gotta get some video of these people leaving the arena with their sad faces!"
If you are a Blazers fan, you felt good – of course. But if you are a Ducks fan, or a Timbers fan, or a Beavers fan, you felt good. If you are a Portlander, or an Oregonian, you felt real good. Sunday night and Monday, we all felt good together. That’s a great game. A great win.
The action started slow in game one. Things didn’t really heat up until the fourth quarter. In fact, it’s amazing to look back and think that LaMarcus Aldridge looked nervous in the early going, and missed his first couple of jumpers, as well as his first two free throws.
But things got very good very quickly. The Blazers stormed back in the fourth quarter, and overtime was a twelve round boxing match on its own. Houston scored the first six points. The Blazers answered. Bennett Salvatore took over. Robin Lopez fouled out. Then Aldridge went. And Howard too. Portland was left standing at the end.
After the game, Howard said that Portland, "didn’t do anything unusual to beat us." And that’s a good point, except that Howard clearly forgot that the guy that drew his sixth foul was Joel Freeland, and Aldridge hit two clutch threes.
There’s a certain giddiness in that this game was just the first of a series that may very well be a classic.
And that’s all good. Game two is Wednesday, and some 20,000 people can’t wait to get to the Rose Garden on Friday and Sunday to greet and cheer on the Blazers at home. There’s time for the rest of the series.
But let’s not pretend that game one is one of seven possible equal parts that make up the series.
One of the common refrains coming out of the Blazers’ locker-room after the game was that game one was just another game – a good win. In part, that’s because there’s a need to stay grounded and focused from the players and coaches, and in part because it’s hard to sum up in a sound-bite in the immediate aftermath the scale of the game just played.
Truth is, it wasn’t just another game. We remember that Roy game above all others for the current generation of Blazers basketball because of the way it made us feel, and that’s why some comparisons were drawn to that game after game one of the current series.
The 84-82 win at the Rose Garden in which Roy had 18 fourth quarter points with no knees and no hope as an NBA player was game four. We don’t remember games one, two, three, five, or six of that series.
The great ones stick. That’s the way it should be.
As for the rest of the series, the Blazers are sitting pretty. The have home court advantage now, and the fatigue that they must be feeling is nothing compared to the fatigue plus loss that the Rockets have to deal with.
The Blazers’ stars outplayed the Rockets’ stars, and the coaching battle was a slaughter on Sunday night. Terry Stotts is the man.
And yet you know this series will be close. Game one couldn’t have been much closer. Dwight Howard should be raring to go after letting the Rocket’s lead slip down the stretch. These two teams don’t like each other, and many an NBA playoff series over the years has run on hate alone.
So while you wait for game two on Wednesday, conduct a poll with your friends, family, coworkers, and whoever else you run into: Who do you like more, Salvatore or Patrick Beverly?
Hopefully the Blazers deliver a knockout blow on Wednesday. The entirety of Rip City will be watching. So here’s to more nights like Sunday. Here’s to this run stretching to May. Here’s hoping that we have one fun month ahead.
But know that it’s Sunday night’s game that you won’t forget. And that’s just the way it should be.