Trail Blazers – Nuggets. 4OT. Down 2. With 1:59 on the clock, Rodney Hood galloped into the game, ready to create some history.
Before this Trail Blazers – Nuggets game, the last 4OT playoff game was way back in 1963, between the Boston Celtics and the Syracuse Nationals. A game that featured Bob Cousy, it is remembered for its slow pace, and constant free throws (64!).
Fast forward to 2019, and the 4OT Game 3 played out between the Blazers and the Nuggets was anything but. With most of the starters looking exhausted as we entered the final 2 minutes, Rodney Hood suddenly galloped onto the floor like a horse at the races, and he seemed determined to stamp his name on this historical night.
With the series tied at 1-1, the Blazers were in a strong position, after stealing Game 2 on the road. However, the longer this contest went on, the more it had the feel of a must-win.
CJ McCollum logged 60 minutes on the night, Damian Lillard, 57. Enes Kanter, with half his shoulder hanging off, managed 56, and Nikola Jokic played more than anyone, ending up with 64 minutes on the clock. Rodney Hood, however, was feeling fresh at just 23 minutes, and his introduction proved to be the difference.
I mean, just look at the way Hood skips into the game here! I remember the feeling; something special was about to happen.
The Blazers put Hood on Jamal Murray, and he simply went to work against his smaller defender.
First, Hood backs down Murray into the paint, gives him a small fake, and then shoots a jumper over the guard’s hand, which rolled around a little before finally dropping. 133-133.
Then Denver get on offense, and courtesy of Will Barton, get to the line for free throws. The former Blazer went 1 of 2 at the line, opening the door for Portland.
Once again on offense, they drew it up for Hood, who went to work on Murray once again. This time, Hood pulled up early, and swished a mid-range to give the Blazers a 1 point lead. 135-134.
As a game that went to 4OT would suggest, neither team would lie down, and the Nuggets went right back at it on the other end, this time Paul Millsap supplying the clutch bucket. Terry Stotts called time with the Blazers down 1, and drew up a play for CJ, who had ultimately shot the ball better than Lillard this series, and would continue to do so (see Game 7).
However, Rodney Hood would be the hero once again, officially claiming Game 3 as the ‘Rodney Hood’ game.
The Blazers got McCollum the ball at the top of the perimeter, with Lillard, Hood and Aminu on the wings. Kanter gave CJ a screen, and allowed the guard to go at Jokic, who was looking extremely flat-footed at this point. The shot went up, a signature CJ mid-range, but it was off target.
But then, McCollum grabbed his own ‘Chris Bosh‘ moment, coming up with an enormous offensive rebound over 2 Denver players. What was more impressive though, was the pass in mid-air, he grabbed the rebound and flung a cross-court pass to Hood before coming back down.
And then, a historic shot in Trail Blazers history. Hood caught the pass, sold Will Barton with a gorgeous pump fake, and shot the three with all the confidence in the world. As you would expect, swish. Blazers. By. 2.
That’s what’s known as a ‘goosebump’ shot, especially if you root for PDX. Goosebump shots are the best thing about sports, and Rodney Hood will always own this one.
A guy that had always struggled with confidence, a game like this couldn’t have happened to a better person. Since he joined the Blazers, Hood had looked like a different player, but even in these playoffs, he had struggled slightly. In the first round vs OKC, Hood had scored a total of 16 points across 5 games. Against Denver, he went 17, 15, 19, 7, 14, 25 and 6.
So where does this game rank in Portland’s all-time list? I can’t offer a personal opinion on the days of Bill Walton or Clyde Drexler; a list of all-time games is chosen on feel, after all. For instance, the Blazers winning the championship in 1977 is obviously their greatest moment, but it’s tough for me to come up with an emotional response to that moment, despite it being the greatest.
So I’m looking at recent history. Lillard’s series winners, Brandon Roy‘s comeback, any of LaMarcus Aldridge‘s monster stat-lines. They’re all up there. However, let me share why I feel this Rodney Hood moment should be so high on any Blazer list.
The Portland Trail Blazers have often been a nearly team. Nationally, they’re well-known for drafting the wrong player, or getting injuries to the stars they do have. But the 2019 playoffs, this was the year they finally broke through, and won some of these clutch moments.
The Blazers last went to the WCF back in 2000, when they lost out in 7 to the Lakers. Since then, they have lost 9 first rounds, missed the playoffs 7 times, failed to draft Kevin Durant, lost Greg Oden and Brandon Roy to career-ending injuries, it was a struggle for a while. The Damian Lillard era has helped rebuild some of these negatives but even so, the Blazers hadn’t tasted true success in a while.
In 2019, they blew up the entire OKC franchise on a step-back, series clinching three. They won a 4OT playoff game, behind the Rodney Hood game. They won a game 7 on the road, behind CJ McCollum’s 37. They lost the WCF, but even Meyers Leonard had a 25 point half in that series!
My point is this. A moment, like Rodney Hood’s game here, will always be extremely high on the all-time list, because of how historic the 2019 season was. This season has perhaps proved it even more, 2019 was special, and Rodney Hood’s game will go down in history.
I, like the rest of RipCity, cannot wait to see Hood back on the floor, doing what he does best.