It was one of those games.
As a Blazers fan, you’ve been wanting a game like this for a long, long time. Not just a win… a big win. Not just against a rival… against your most bitter of rival (even if they’re having an off-year). On the road. Near the end of the season, when jockeying for position. With your two biggest stars shining brighter than the bathroom light at 5:00 a.m.
This game delivered on all counts, as LaMarcus Aldridge (31, 15, and 6 with 2 blocks) and Damian Lillard (34, 8 assists, and 3 steals) blew through the Lakers like a freight train through fog, and the Portland Trail Blazers earned a 124-112 win over the Los Angeles Lakers.
How good was this game? It was so good that Mo Williams’ poor shooting night didn’t matter a whit, but his poking away the ball from the Lakers over and over and over certainly did. It was so good that Thomas Robinson got a sick reverse dunk on the break. It was so good that Damian Lillard got back-to-back threes and didn’t even celebrate. It was so good that Meyers Leonard got ejected… well, okay, THAT wasn’t good, but it did happen.
And it didn’t matter.
The Blazers went from looking like they’d fall out of the playoffs to finding themselves just a game and a half out of earning home court advantage, racking up yet another 4-game winning streak, their 6th such streak this year, which is the first time they’ve gotten that many since 1999-2000 which, by the way, was the last year they got to the Western Conference Finals.
First and foremost, they have their best player back. There is no understating how important Aldridge is to this team. He’s not LeBron James, nor will he ever be, but he does something that not even the King does, which is make literally every other player on his team better. There isn’t a guy on the Blazers who doesn’t benefit from having LaMarcus on the floor, if only as a threat.If you don’t respect his shot, he shoots. If you bite on his pump fakes, he drives. If you double, he passes out, and the Blazers are savvy enough to zip an extra pass to the open man. It’s night and day with him on the floor, and oh baby, is the sun ever shining.
Second, Aldridge’s return took with it about 2 gallons of swagger that the Blazers seemed to have misplaced since some time in January. Everyone looks like a completely different player, particularly on defense. The Blazers aren’t and won’t be a grind-it-out, possession-limiting team, but when everybody’s active, it makes it hard to shoot. With Lopez in the middle, it’s not so easy to drive, either. And when Joel Freeland returns, there will be nary a gap to be found so long as the energy level keeps up.
Finally, there’s some intangible essence that good teams can tap into when the chips are down. With so few games until the playoffs and position anything but certain, the chips are down, as are the wadded dollar bills substituting for chips. Nothing is unexposed. It’s now or never time, and the Blazers picked the best possible moment to step up.
It’s a lot of fun to watch. I’m enjoying the hell out of it. You should, too.
As mentioned earlier, the Blazers are just 1.5 games out of 4th place since Houston lost, are 2 games ahead of 6th-place Golden State, and 4.5 games ahead of 9th-place Dallas. Revenge is sweet, and Portland has until Friday to forget the win and come back hungry against a Phoenix Suns team that has had their number. They face off Friday at 7:00 p.m. at the Moda Center.
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