Holy Shit! Damian Lillard is like a god amongst mere mortals; and seems to have a knack for knowing exactly when to call on or initiate divine intervention per his consistency in regards to balling the hell out. He is quite reminiscent of Russell Wilson where whether you’re religious or not, you look at these athlete’s successes and can’t help but wonder if there is some sort of predestined intervention-esque complex occuring.
But good Ol’ Jesus, like the rest of us, was probably knocking down a Corona (or Hefe or Fresh Squeezed as Whitty and Hair would like to imagine) while witnessing this remarkable game that ended up coming down to Damian Lillard’s continued confidence in regards to absolutely owning Russell Westbrook and the rest of the whiny Thunder squad.
I have never witnessed such a supposedly great player like Westbrook talk so much shit over the course of a series, while simultaneously losing not only games, but the general support of most of public in the process. Anyone who wasn’t blind and watched this series can agree with this. Russell Westrook postured, flexed and ran his mouth mercilessly for the entire series with the obvious mindset that he was the alpha over Damian Lillard. That premise turned out to be laughable to say the least, since in addition to Lillard “...Busting That ASS…” throughout the entire series (to quote a not so great scholar), taking into consideration all of the clout that Westbrook lost by getting absolutely owned by Lillard and outclassed in the process brewed a perfect negative public relations brewhaha and Westbrook quickly became the villain in the eyes of both casual and avid NBA fans.
The way things shook out actually felt like a movie when you consider how many shots Lillard was hitting. He went 10-18 from the 3 point line and to be honest, I don’t really remember ANY of the 8 threes that he missed. I was having some sort of out of body experience, while Lillard was operating like he was some kind of deity at work.
The moment that I realized that the Trail Blazers were going to win this game and shut this shit down was when Jusuf Nurkic decided to make a surprise appearance with 3:28 left on the game clock and his team trailing by 8. It felt like an episode of WWE Smackdown and one of your favorite wrestlers intro music just came on and they enter the stage. As soon as he was put on the jumbotron and it was known that he had arrived, there was a definite change of vibe in terms of a renewed sense of urgency and focus and the Blazers efficiently taking care of business in honor of the presence of their fallen brother. Needless to say, the Blazers rallied and the bucket seemed like it was the size of a hula hoop for Portland during the remainder of the game. Harkless was cutting, dunking, and hitting 4 BIG free throws after going 1-6 for the night. CJ found his shot and was able to hit a big 3 and a massive midrange jumper to tie it at 113. Curry came up with a steal at the best possible time, and then during “The Last Word” sat in the corner telling OKC’s bench that they would be going home for good in the next 10 seconds. Chief played perfect defence and came up with a major rebound to set Dame up for his moment in the national spotlight. Everything, for once, broke the Blazers way.
Lillard seized the momentum and was a man on a mission to make a career changing statement, even after already setting the franchise record for points in a playoff game with 47 at that point (beating the previous mark of 46 set by Aldridge). Additionally, by staring down Paul George, who should have been right in his face if we are being honest, and hitting a dagger of a buzzer beater that knocked the Oklahoma City Thunder right the fuck out of out of the first round of the playoffs for the third year in a row; this basically solidifies OKC’s position as the team that can’t make it past the first round of the playoffs in the Western Conference. The Blazers exercised their demons by passing them on to the Thunder.
People are beginning to watch Lillard’s success on a national scale and compare him to the likes of Steph Curry, which would have been unheard of outside of the Blazer bubble two weeks ago. All of us Blazer fans know that Lillard is capable of this kind of magnificence. So while I am happy to start hearing Lillard’s name come up as potentially one of the best players in the league, this topic of conversation is way overdue and it’s sad that it took the likes of such a dramatic, bitchy, gritty and publicized feud with two babies like Paul George and Russell Westbrook for Damian Lillard to start getting some serious national recognition as one of the current greats.
Speaking of Paul George, when it came to his dumb-ass opinion on the game-winning, 37 ft. dagger by Damian Lillard: He was quoted in a post game interview, saying: "That's a bad shot. I don't care what anybody says. That's a bad shot. But, hey, he made it. That story won't be told, that it's a bad shot. You live with that."
How can Paul George even begin to talk about bad shots when he plays with a human brick producing machine by the name of Russell Westbrook on a nightly basis? I could be wrong, but I didn’t hear much criticism towards Westbrook by George all season when it came to throwing up shitty shots.
Just to play devil’s advocate for the sake of page views, let’s say Paul George is technically correct from a coaching or foundational standpoint. Maybe Damian’s buzzer beater isn’t a typical shot that is going to be emphasized in early basketball development. However, he was the one tasked with covering Dame and at this point, instead of acknowledging one of the greatest shots he has ever witnessed, he just sounds like a salty moron for thinking that a 37 footer is a “bad shot” for Damian Lillard in any circumstance. He has showed time and time again that he is clutch when he needs to be. The dude just put up a 50 burger on you and your dysfunctional squad, so shut the fuck up and take your loss like a man. Take it like Parsons did 5 years ago. And, if I’m not mistaken, “Logo Lillard” started the series off by hitting pretty much the same shot. So this wasn’t like he hadn’t already been bested by that type of shot of the course of these 5 games.
Speaking of which, Parsons was a good sport about the situation on Twitter and the impending connection people were making between. He easily wins our personal ‘Tweet of the Night’ Award
The bottom line is, this moment surpassed the bubble of the devoted Blazers fans, this shot put Lillard and the Blazers on the map for a player and a team that isn’t to be fucked with lightly. This moment is also one of those rare instances where everyone who was watching will know exactly who they were with, what they were doing and how they reacted. This is a great time for the overall development of Rip City and we have our savior to thank for that.
Before I go all in on that Russell “Westbrick,” who, despite his talents and being a whiny little bitch to referees and players alike, there is a definite mutual respect between Russ and Dame stemming from their God-given talents. Dame has been quoted as saying that they don’t have a beef but “They aint friends.” During Game 1 against the Thunder, Lillard did what he does best: activate Dame Time and go off in the 4th quarter. In Game 2 he bought an amazing amount of real estate inside his head, so much so that Westbrook was already in the locker room when the final horn sounded. That being said, if the Blazers were to continue on with their momentum from Games 1 and 2 and go on to win the series; there would be some serious (national) conversations about who the better point guard is between Lillard and Westbrook. This would seriously piss Westbrook off, since he clearly thinks he is a gift from God and is entitled to throw up 50 shots per game. Lillard, on the other hand, averages 18 shots a contest and is as efficient as fuck. Westbrook’s ego has a lot to do with his success but it will also be his downfall.
There definitely is some bad blood between Russ and some of the Blazers and Russ isn’t afraid to talk trash and just be a dick in general. I for one miss the Rasheed Wallace days, where we obviously weren’t afraid to get a technical foul every now and then to garner respect and get our point across. When Steve Adams leveled Dame in Game 2 with a solid screen, Barkley spoke post game about how there needed to be retaliation on the Blazers side. Nobody does that to our guys. If we did that and played that game, then we could maybe shut his ass up for once. But since Lillard is too classy to start brawling verbally or physically with anyone, the crowd needs to play a role, when it comes to pissing Westbrook off and affecting his game. For example, the Moda Center needs to be rocking merciless boos whenever he touches the ball and serenade him with chants of “NEXT QUESTION” every time he misses. This is obviously a play on his childlike press conference when he was asked a simple question after the Thunder’s first loss to the Blazers on Sunday.
The bottom line is that Westbrook flops more than the salmon in the Columbia River and he WILL make it to the line. This is Rip City’s chance to let Westbrook know that his petty, childish, bitch-ass attitude doesn’t fly; especially when it's directed at the Blazers in any way, shape, or form. We need (friend of the show Rob) Free Throw Guy to fly back up here just to hold a sign reading “NEXT QUESTION” every time he makes it to the line. Seasoned players aren’t really affected by shenanigans like this, but something tells me that thin-skin Russ pays attention to this kind of shit. Lets go a step further and pay a somebody to touch his arm like what happened on in February. That seemed to piss him off, immensely.
I would never wish harm to anyone, but the the ideal situation would be for a big, bench player (Leonard, Collins) to just set a rough screen on Westbrook and let his emotions take over. The best defense the Blazers can play on him during this series isn’t getting up in his face when he squares up. It isn’t restricting his path to the rack by clogging the lane. It’s by getting out your lawn chair and setting up shop in his head. The rest, he will do to himself.
After Sunday night’s 115-108 win over the Denver Nuggets, Damian Lillard became the target of an investigation by the league and their anti-flopping rule after Mason Plumlee tapped him during a three pointer, which, if you ask me... FINE! Fuck off. He definitely is guilty to a degree, he fell back like a sniper pegged from the rafters with minimal contact. But what Dame did on that play was strategical, masterful and certainly nothing worse than the (countless) egregious flops that players like Harden, Durant, and Curry commit on a regular basis; seemingly without questioning by the referees. It seems that the men in stripes just don’t see the beatings Dame takes the same way they can see gusts of wind assault other players.
I would argue that because Damian Lillard is a Portland Trail Blazer, he, like the rest of Rip City gets no respect from the rest of the NBA. Whether you’re talking about members of the national media, average fans or seasoned referees, Portland always gets brushed to the side and treated as an afterthought. Anyone can clearly see that Dame flopped after contact from Plumlee and before the whistle. However, this implies that it wouldn’t have even been a foul if Lillard didn’t resort to the tactics that he did. He had to sell the contact from Plumlee. He always has to sell fouls and air out his grievances with the referees on a semi nightly basis because he gets dick squwat for calls from the refs, who are looking more and more like a formidable team of their own, reeking havoc on most teams in the league; especially Portland.
Portland is an easy market for anyone to to pick on, with only 650,000 residents in the area, as compared to places like Los Angeles, that boasts a whopping 4 million residents. Or try New York, which is home to a staggering 8.6 million people. It’s safe to say that the NBA generally wants teams with larger fanbases to succeed due to the increased amount of support (read: money) potentially garnered from the fanbases and beyond. There is also a clear desire on the part of the league to damn near assist with the success of certain popular players who, thanks to their abilities, don’t need one bit of help from officials in the first place. Think about players like Chris Paul, James Harden or Russell Westbrook, who flop so much that throughout the course of a game, they basically reside on either the floor or the free throw line.
During Friday night’s game against the Nuggets, Doris Burke, who is an obvious fan of Damian Lillard and a damn national treasure, commented about the visible restraint shown by Lillard as of late and how he goes about communicating to the refs about the (lack of) calls that he receives. Compare that to the Golden State Warriors, who just received massive fines for taunting and complaining about the refs for “unfair treatment.” I for one, never really have an issue with Lillard when he has to have lively conversations with referees, even if it seemingly does get to the level of cringeworthy by some standards. To be very clear, short of the occasional technical foul, I want Dame to be vocal to refs and I don’t think Blazer fans mind if he voices his opinion when he feels it’s necessary. Maybe it has something to do with the perceived lack of respect that Lillard and the rest of the Blazers receive in the form hostile officiating.
Speaking of which, after the formal flopping investigation was announced, it didn’t take long for Lillard to rightfully snap back at both the league and officials on Twitter; echoing my and probably most of Rip City’s sentiments on the matter. To Burke’s point, lately Lillard has been noticeably silent in regards to any of his usual extra curricular conversations with referees. So, needless to say, this response from Lillard was overdue and on point.
Well. Shit has once again gone awry for the Portland Trail Blazers when it comes to the injury department. We're used to it. We've come to expect that we aren't allowed to have good things. We are Rip City. And in the echo of Wesley Matthews, it came in the stretch run of a regular season where the Blazers seemed primed to make a deep run in the post season despite all preseason predictions to the contrary. Jusuf Nurkic, who was having one of the best statistical games of his entire NBA career, and best season nonetheless as a pro as a whole, came down awkwardly on his left leg and suffered a heinous leg injury that simultaneously crippled Portland’s chances for a deep run in the post season and the hopes of Blazers faithful. Our second best player, and the best friend of our leader, lie on the floor with the tears of 650,000 in his eyes
Of course, real Blazer fans wouldn’t feel at home without one or more of their star players being out with some sort of injury plaguing them. So as a fan, this seems about right to me. Bowie, Walton, Oden, Roy, Matthews. We've seen it before and we will probably see it again. But we will never be numb to the observation because as members of Rip City, we Rise Together....which means we fall together.
What really sucks about Nurkic’s injury is thinking about how successful this particular roster would have been if everyone was healthy. Especially considering the fact that we pretty much lucked out with the Kanter and Hood signings. This was a year that our previously laughable bench was actually something to be feared. Curry is a marksman from 3 when left open, Turner had finally found his rightful place on the play sheet in the second unit, and minor trade acquisitions provided depth at fragile places. No longer was Stotts trying to find a solid 10 man rotation, he was trying to figure out how the hell to cut it down to only 10.
That being said, Kanter is not as defensively capable as Nurkic and it is apparent that multiple players need to step up and assist with Lillard’s efforts to carry the team on his back. This is a moment that players such as Collins could only dream of. This is a time that Leonard can show he isn't the "whipping boy" that he has been made out to be. This is their time to shine. And as good as Kanter has been for the Blazers of late, he hasn’t been able to really do what Nurkic can do in the pick and roll with Lillard (who can?). His quick offense and lack of court vision will lead to more turnovers than assists. That's where the rest of the team will need to shoulder the burden, and where our leader needs to do what he has always done. But better.
The injury to Nurkic poses the question of how will Damian Lillard be affected moving forward. Even though Lillard will undoubtedly rise to the occasion and proceed to do some Lillard-type shit, he should not be forced to carry such a heavy burden by himself. But he will, because that's what he does. The more weight he is asked to carry, the higher he seems to be able to lift his arms.
It has been cool and all to see what the Blazers have been able to achieve without two of their three strongest players, but let’s all hope that CJ can come back and consistently put some points on the board. Because if the Blazers are able to overcome the odds once again, Lillard is going to need somebody to help take some of the weight off his shoulders if he is going to have any strength left to lift the Larry O'Brien Trophy some day.
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