When it was finally over, after another inevitable overtime, I was afraid that 20,246 people at the Rose Garden were about to storm the court.
At least the guys and gals courtside – there could be no holding them back if they wanted to lift Wesley Matthews up on their shoulders and run with him straight off the court and back down to Houston.
It was Portland 123, Houston 120 Sunday night. It was the Blazers’ first home playoff win since Brandon Roy’s famous day against Dallas, and one of the best NBA games in the entire season.
It was one of those games that got so good; everyone left on the floor was heroic in some way. This Blazers-Rockets series has taken no prisoners. Everyone is caught up in it. Rip City is going bananas.
Game four was brilliant. The whole series has been euphoria on steroids.
We’re figuring out that the Blazers are a pretty special group. They have moxie unlike any team we’ve seen since the franchise moved out of Memorial Coliseum. Down ten at halftime, you could feel the alarm bells going off – two home losses in a best of seven is usually crippling.
But they came on back. That’s just what the Blazers do, buoyed by incredible home support.
On Wednesday, the Blazers try to close it out in Houston. Will they? It’s anyone’s guess. On one hand, the Rockets must be utterly heartbroken. On the other, it has never seemed like this series was destined for a 4-1 score-line.
I mean, so far, the Blazers and Rockets could teach the Timbers a thing or two about tying games.
You have to think Dr. Jack Ramsay would be happy with how it’s all going down. The Blazers’ only championship-winning coach lost his battle with cancer on Monday morning. He was 89.
Now, Dr. Jack gets to watch it all unfold from above.
Are the stars aligning? There were so many big moments in game four; it’s impossible to recount them all. You like steals? Mo Williams stripped Jeremy Lin from behind in the backcourt to eventually set up a massive three.
When you knew that the ball would somehow find its way to that Troy Daniels kid for a game-tying, second-overtime-inducing, back-breaking three, Matthews’ strip of Patrick Beverly finally ended the game.
You like threes? Mo Williams hit two ungodly triples to keep the Blazers alive. Nic Batum found his mojo. Blocks, you say? Aldridge stuffed more than one late.
Damian Lillard was key again. He’s gelled in with the Blazers playoff continuum in a way that I wasn’t sure he would. I never thought that Lillard would struggle, rather, I wasn’t sure if he’d know when to step in and out of games, and whether he’d be in the right place when it mattered most.
But there Lillard was, scratching and clawing on the floor for Wesley Matthews’ miss late, feeding Williams for his three.
You can feel it all coming together.
Paul Allen is having quite a year. After winning the Super Bowl with the Seahawks, his Blazers are within one game of breaking the longest playoff-series win draught in the NBA.
The Blazers are in this position because Allen finally went out and did things the right way: He hired smart, talented people like Neil Olshey and Terry Stotts, and let them do their jobs.
Stotts isn’t locked in for next season and beyond in Portland. But you feel that that fate is also one game away from being sealed.
In a way, you don’t want this Rockets-Blazers series to end. It’s that good. That even. That intoxicating.
Of course the Blazers haven’t won three playoff games in a single season since 2000, let alone a series. The records and narrative around this team are changing. Coming into the playoffs, there were concerns over the Blazers’ toughness, bench, and defense.
Houston may have a little more talent. They might have a little more punch. But they’ve come up just a little bit short in big moments when the ball’s on the floor. Troy Daniels is their hero so far, and while that’s a feel-good story, I think they’d rather have Harden or Howard hit a game-winner.
The Blazers know who their guys are. That’s why Stotts went to Mo Williams when Robin Lopez fouled out, even though Thomas Robinson was having a terrific game. Mo did what he was signed to do. That’s how it works for good teams in the playoffs.
That and the Blazers’ have the superior uniforms. No question.
Rip City is feeling it. The onslaught of incredible basketball is relentless. May it continue long into June.