The Portland Trail Blazers entered the 2014 NBA playoffs as underdogs to the Houston Rockets. Despite being just one seed apart and owning the same regular-season record, Houston’s star power gave people the idea that Portland couldn’t hang, and that the Rockets were championship contenders.
As it turns out, the Blazers are the ones moving on after a dramatic Game 6, and the Rockets are the ones forced to answer questions entering a long offseason.
As Rip City knows, the Game 6 victory means more to the city than any win in over a decade. Portland hasn’t been to the second round since the 1999-00 season, which was when the franchise’s heartbreak truly began to set in.
Since that Game 7 loss to the Lakers, we’ve seen players, knees and hopes of a resurgence come and go. It’s been 14 years, but this team, town and fanbase are back and ready to make some noise.
April 30 @ Houston (Round 1, Game 5)
The Trail Blazers entered this contest with a chance to close out the series. They had a 3-1 lead at that juncture, and they were coming off of a gutsy overtime victory.
Unfortunately for Portland, the Rockets are the ones that came out fighting for their postseason lives. They hadn’t looked like a cohesive unit for much of the series, but in times of desperation, they held LaMarcus Aldridge to just eight points and won the first double-digit game of the series 108-98.
Aside from LaMarcus Aldridge‘s poor performance, the emergence of Jeremy Lin as a real-life basketball player was the biggest factor. Wesley Matthews went for 27 points, but Lin recorded a shocking 21 points off the bench.
Game 5 was a dud in a lot of senses, but if the team had won on the road, we wouldn’t have experienced one of the greatest games in franchise history at home later that week.
May 2 vs. Houston (Round 1, Game 6)
As much as Portland would have liked to close out the series in Game 5, this is the one that was necessary. Going back on the road in a close-out Game 7 would have spelled trouble for the Blazers, and more significantly, it would’ve spelled trouble for the 14-year second-round drought.
Luckily for Portland, the stars showed up, and we got one of the best games ever played in the Moda Center as a result.
NOBODY IS LEAVING THE MODA CENTER! PARTY!!! #RIPCITY
— Sarah Hecht (@sarahhechtNBA) May 3, 2014
To begin the contest, the arena formerly known as The Rose Garden had a nervous energy. Fans were anxious to get things started; nervous about the prospect of returning to Houston.
That energy stayed consistent most of the way through. Hot streaks from Aldridge, Damian Lillard, Robin Lopez and even Thomas Robinson helped boost the volume level, but as every game in the series did, this one came down to the wire.
With 0.9 second remaining, Chandler Parsons scored the go-ahead layup. He was in the right place at the right time, grabbed a tip from Robin Lopez and gave Portland every reason to believe it would be headed toward a Game 7.
Then Damian Lillard happened.
As Nicolas Batum inbounded the ball, the crowd was nearly silent. As Lillard’s shot went up, the crowd somehow got even quieter.
The buzzer went off, the ball plummeted, and as it smoothly tickled the twine, all pandemonium broke loose.
Inside the arena, fans watched as the players celebrated and the jumbotron played the shot over, and over, and over again. Outside, chants of “Let’s Go Blazers!” rocked the city as people danced and cheered.
This game meant everything to the city, and Lillard is the one who delivered the win. There’s still work to be done if a championship is on the horizon, but for the moment, embrace everything this team has been through, and all the success it’s seen this season.