The 2015-16 Portland Trail Blazers season will be written about for years, as a team often predicted to finish in the bottom of the NBA standings won 44 games, advanced to the second round of the playoffs and held their own against the best regular season team in NBA history. Let's look back at some of the best moments along the way!
November 20, 2015: Blazers 102, Clippers 91 - Wait, this is a playoff preview?
Akicks shares his favorite moment:
And a bonus from Akicks:
CJ McCollum's slick moves leave a couple All-Stars in the dust
On the season-long scale, CJ McCollum's ascendance to near all-star this season was nothing short of remarkable. At the individual play scale, his emergence as a highlight reel machine delight Portland fans all season. McCollum regularly schooled opposing players with nifty crossovers and sharp passes in traffic.
Two plays against established stars, in particular, stood out:
Dirk laughed about the play after the game, saying, "Oh, man, I was praying he was going to miss it. And I turned around and he made it. I told him at halftime it was cold-blooded to go at the old man like that."
There was no quote from Harden.
December 26, 2016: Blazers vs. Cavs - A "Day-After-Christmas Miracle"
What a game. Less than a month earlier, the Blazers didn't look like they had a chance against the Cavaliers. But the day after Christmas, after losing to the Warriors, the downtrodden Cavs walked into a wrecking ball in Portland. The Blazers blew them out from the opening tip, leaving the team shell-shocked and reportedly almost got head coach David Blatt fired. Only later would we learn that the players reportedly treated the game as a mini-protest, and their coup over Blatt would take another month to complete.
But the Blazer's Edge writing staff knew the real reason for the victory: The Blazers aren't allowed to lose when the staff gets together for the game.
January 10, 2016. Blazers 115, Thunder 110: Lillard goes supernova
The clock hit Lillard time on disappointingly few occasions this season. One of the exceptions was on Jan. 10 against Northwest Dvision rival Oklahoma City. Lillard's fourth quarter explosion in that game was nearly indescribable, but Ryan Rosback gave it his best shot in the post-game analysis for Blazer's Edge:
January 23, 2016: Blazers vs. Lakers - Kobe's last game in Portland
After decades of catcalls and boos in the Rose Garden and Moda Center, including his previous appearance when he made the decision to retire. Kobe Bryant visited Portland for one last time. And in the fourth quarter, the fans made the moment unforgettable. After being booed mercilessly all night, and even trash-talked by Blazer bench-warmer Luis Montero, Kobe sat on the bench as Portland ran away with the game. Then, something unexpected happened: They started rallying for one last appearance from Kobe Bryant, seemingly to finally give him that one ovation at the end of his career. But Lakers coach Byron Scott wouldn't think of it, and Bryant heard the request from the comfort of his courtside seat. The world will never know if the Moda Center faithful actually planned to give him one ovation, or if they were trying to con Scott into allowing Bryant onto the court for one last big "boo".
February 8, 2016: Blazers 112, Grizzlies 106: Portland guts out a big overtime win
A key turning point in the season came on February 8 when the Blazers beat the Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies had demolished the Blazers in the playoffs the year before but were now battling with Portland for one of the lesser Western Conference playoff seeds. After an impressive performance over an extended homestand in January, this game served as evidence that the Blazers were not about to back down in their playoff hunt on the road against immediate competitors. A key moment came when Allen Crabbe tipped in the game tying shot at the end of regulation, but the real hero was CJ McCollum in overtime.
For Timmay, this capped the unexpected two-game road sweep of Houston and Memphis that completely changed his expectations for the season. Farewell, draft pick.
The @trailblazers just swept a two-game road trip of West playoff teams above them. The tank is officially parked in the garage.— Timmay (@BedgeTimmay) February 9, 2016
February 19, 2016: Blazers 137, Warriors 105: A second-round playoff preview!
The Blazers were on a roll heading into the All-Star Break. But no matter how well you're playing, you can't be prepared for the eventual 73-win Golden State Warriors being rested and visiting your arena. But the Blazers proved everyone wrong. Portland took an early lead, and the Warriors erased it. Then Portland seized control, dominating the second half and sending the Warriors off with one of their worst losses of the season. As the game trickled out of reach for even the fast-scoring Warriors, Lillard capped it off with a show to send the fans home extra-happy.
Little could anyone have expected that the two teams would meet again in May, in a memorable second-round playoff series.
April 22, 2016: CJ McCollum Wins NBA's Most Improved Player Award
CJ McCollum's breakout season was capped in April when he was awarded the NBA's Most Improved Player Award. McCollum set career highs in every major statistical category, averaging over 20 points and 4 assists per game for the Blazers. Impressively, his efficiency numbers also improved despite the increased playmaking burden.
Ever-confident, McCollum actually bristled at the implication that he had been a significantly worse player in previous season. "I don't necessarily think I'm the most improved player in the NBA," he told SiriusXM's NBA Today. "I think I've always been a good player, it's just more about opportunity and role increasing."
April 29th, 2016: Blazers vs. Clippers Game 6
Blazer's Edge Social Media Contributor Kody Tarbell explains why the clinching game of the first round series against the Clippers was his top moment:
May 11th, 2016: Blazers vs. Warriors Game 5
A loss rarely makes the list of "best moments," let alone a loss that ends the season. But despite Golden State closing out Portland in Game 5, afterward everyone wanted to talk about the upstart Blazers. The team gave the Warriors everything they could handle, with nailbiters in the last three games of the series. Every time Golden State seemed ready to pull away, Portland would fight back despite the great odds. Perseverance, heart, and McCollum's strong play down the stretch made everyone optimistic about the future for this team. It was a sharp contrast to their five-game losses to the Spurs in 2014 and Memphis in 2015.
And so ends ourf the Top 10 Moments of the Blazers' season. Now it's your turn: What was your favorite moment and why?
Eric Griffith | @DeeringTornado | GoBlazers87@gmail.com