Before Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard took on the onus as the Portland Trail Blazers’ go-to guy, the term “Mr. Fourth Quarter” belonged to a different player.
At some point in between Brandon Roy’s rise as a feared late-game scorer and the moments prior to Damian Lillard effectively taking that torch to a higher pedestal, the Portland Trail Blazers associated the mantra “Mr. Fourth Quarter” with an entirely different player.
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It’s easy to be fooled by the 9.6 points per game average, or the accumulation of just 26 starts over a seven-year span in Rip City. But Travis Outlaw’s body of work in late-game situations deserves a special remembrance.
As part of the Blazers’ post-“Jail Blazers” regime, Outlaw joined Portland straight out of high school, bolstering the Blazers’ second unit. From 2006-07 to 2008-09, only three true Sixth Men — players with fewer than 50 starts over that span — scored more than Outlaw’s 2,771 points.
But his true calling card came in clutch moments, providing both clutch stops and game-winning buckets. The legend first appeared to begin on Dec. 3, 2007, when Outlaw brought the Blazers down from a 103-99 deficit, scoring seven points over 57.8 seconds.
That anchored a 13-game win streak, highlighted by this shot.
If you need a reason to smile, go to YouTube and type in “Travis Outlaw game-winners.” The former Blazer has enough on-tape big buckets for a few seasons and a collector’s edition item.
A few weeks ago, we took a closer look at an NBA.com feature that showed how every player in league history performed in a “clutch atmosphere.” Outlaw’s numbers were brilliant across the board. To recite:
Regular season: last 3 minutes, ahead-or-behind by 5
— 45-of-92 FG (48.9 percent), 4-of-14 3P (28.6 percent), 35-of-45 FT (77.8 percent)
Regular season, “hero shots”
— 12-of-17 FG (70.5 percent)
For reference, “hero shots” are defined as shots to tie or take the lead with under 30 seconds to go. On average, stars hit on 29.8 percent of those. Outlaw, despite never becoming a “star,” or heavily-marketed player, excelled on such shots. He went 7-of-7 in 2007-08.
The dynamic of those late-2000s Blazers teams certainly provides more than meets the eye. The team had two certified late-game killers in Roy and Outlaw, and one on the rise as well in Aldridge, a budding star who had earned the nickname “Mr. First Quarter.”
It’s unclear of all the rave would have ever led to an NBA championship, but it definitely would’ve been a help in knowing they had more than one guy capable of scoring late, à la the current Blazers.