Game Seven seemed all but confirmed after a loose ball fell gently into the arms of Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons, who scooped in a layup to put his team up 98-96. Portland Trail Blazers guard Wesley Matthews nearly fell to his knees; the Rockets players jogged to their sidelines in unison, contented in knowing they had a win-or-go-home on their home floor, all but guaranteed; the Moda Center crowd sat, shocked, murmuring in confusion.
No one knew it at the time, but those in attendance were mere moments away from one of the greatest shots in NBA history. Eight years ago, today, Damian Lillard hit the shot that essentially made him a worldwide commodity across the league’s stratosphere. In the process, the 99-98 victory over the Rockets catapulted the Blazers into the Western Conference Semifinals for the first time since 2000.
The series itself remains one of the high points in recent Blazers memory. Despite the end result, it should be remembered that the Rockets were almost unanimously favored by experts across the globe. All told, the rollercoaster of a series ended up featuring: a 46-point, 18-rebound masterpiece from LaMarcus Aldridge in Game One and a 31-point Playoff debut from Lillard in Game One, leading to a 122-120 overtime victory, a 43-point encore from Aldridge in Game Two, the Troy Daniels game-winner in Game Three, Wesley Matthews’ forgotten game-winning steal in Game Four, and then, Lillard’s historic series-capper in Game Six.
This proved to be the first series of Lillard’s career, in which he averaged 25.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.7 assists on 47-49-88 percentage splits as a 23-year-old. And the true start of the Dame era in Rip City.