Damian Lillard

USA Today

Statement Game For Portland

The Munster Kid better dial up something quickly.

April 22, 2019 - 12:06 pm

If you’re looking for the most viral moment of the NBA playoffs so far, look no further than Toronto head coach Nick Nurse. He gave the world the ultimate GIF yesterday with his reaction to a call against the Raptors. If you haven’t seen it, get to a TV right now because I’m about to roll it.

Coming in three, two and….one.

That is 13 straight seconds of pure perfection. Absolute gold... For a few moments in there, I thought my screen was frozen, but the announcers keep talking, so you know it hasn’t frozen. Nick Nurse has done an amazing job this year re-working the Raptors on the fly, but that might have best moment ever.

However, as much attention as that reaction is getting, and it deserves every bit of it, here’s something else that deserves a ton of attention: the Portland Trail Blazers.

This is a team that came into the playoffs with a 10-game playoff losing streak. They lost their best big man a few weeks ago. And all they’ve done is win both games in Portland and take 1 of 2 in OKC, including last night’s 111-98 statement in Game 4.

Game 3 got heated, with Russell Westbrook and Damian Lillard going back and forth, and the Blazers weren’t pleased with how they handled it. "After Game 3, we were in the locker room saying they lived at the free throw line and all this stuff, but Game 4, we're not talking to nobody but ourselves.”

What about the officiating? Head coach Terry Stotts said it wasn’t about the officiating in Game 4, it was about the effort, from both teams. And if you’re a Blazers fan or an NBA fan, you know where this quote is going, because Stotts is about to give a shoutout to the legend.

And if you don’t know what that was about, Stotts was channeling Rasheed Wallace and his legendary presser from back in the day.

Both teams did play hard last night, but one team is just flat out better. And they proved it, time and time again. Because when the game was on the line, the Blazers came up with plays like this.

And like this.

That is assassin material from C.J. McCollum. Strip Paul George, start the break, and then end it with an ice-cold three? Get the hell out of here with that.

Oh, and then there’s this unreal pass from Dame to ice the game.

What are we talking about from last night? I’m talking about Damian Lillard starting off 0 for 7 from the field, but hitting 7 of his next 12 and finishing with 24 points and 8 assists. I’m talking about C.J. McCollum going for 27. And I’m talking about the fact that if this series was a battle between Dame and Russ, Dame is crushing Russ. And it’s not even close.

Look, four games doesn’t make or break a career, but it does make a statement. One guy isn’t carrying his team, the other guy is. One guy is a household name, the other guy should be. And if he’s not, it’s on you, not on him.

Russ went 5 for 21 in a must-win game. That’s bad. What’s even worse? He ended the game on an 0 for 10 streak and had 1 point in the second half. When his team needed buckets, he couldn’t get them.

And the Blazers knew it. That’s why, according to Royce Young, when Portland’s Al-Farouq Aminu checked into the game in the fourth quarter, Blazers assistant David Vanterpool told him, "Don't help on Russ; let him shoot."

Damn! Let me repeat that – the Blazers are sending in one of their best defensive players and the coaches are telling him, if Russ gets the ball, don’t help on him. Just let him shoot. We WANT him to shoot.

And the only thing more brutal than that, was this, also from Royce Young: “with Westbrook isolated by the 3-point line with Enes Kanter guarding him, the entire Blazers bench was screaming, "Back up! Back up! Back up!"

Again, the entire Blazers bench is telling their big man to back off an All-NBA player to let him shoot. In the fourth quarter. Of a playoff game.

And that’s not disrespect, that’s just a scouting report. That’s a game plan. And the game plan is to less Russ shoot. Because he’s not making anything.

Don’t get me wrong. Russ is a great player. And I know that Paul George is injured, but OKC is on the verge of being run out of the playoffs by a team that wasn’t supposed to win a game in the playoffs. They’re being smashed by a team they swept in the regular season. The Blazers are making statements right now with their play and you better take note.

And the Munster Kid better dial up something quickly. Coach em up, Ed!! Coach em up, or you’ll be teeing em up and letting em fly in a matter of hours. C’mon end, don’t let Herm down: no one likes to disappoint their dad!!