The Trail Blazers Are Different

Portland is going home with the split and their crowd will be hyped.

Jim Rome
May 02, 2019 - 10:05 am
Damian Lillard and Enes Kanter

USA Today

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Like Game 2 of Houston-Golden State the night before, Game 2 of Portland-Denver wasn’t much to watch... Portland didn’t play its best basketball in Game 1 and felt like they still let the game slip away.

Then they come back in Game 2 and Damian Lillard goes 1 for 7 from deep and has 14 points on 17 shots. Has to be a loss for the Blazers, right? No way you win on the road without your leader and superstar is not having a superstar-type game, right?

Wrong.

Because Portland is different. As great as Lillard has been, they aren’t a one-man team. This team is brass and he’s got help. And he trusts that help. And even on a night where his shots aren’t falling, the defense still has to respect him, which is going to open things up for the guys around him. And Dame will find them. And he did. Guys like:

CJ McCollum: 20 points, 6 assists, including absurd shots like this.

Rodney Hood: 15 points off the bench, including this dagger with the shot clock winding down.

Six guys in double figures and a 97-90 win on the road when their star was having an off-night.

That’s huge. Almost any other team watches their star struggle with his shot and they do just that – they watch and they struggle, too. And they lose. And they go down two games to none. Not the Blazers. They’ve got serious grit.

That is not a game Portland is supposed to win. Then again, they weren’t supposed to win in the first round. No one outside their locker room thought they were going to do anything in these playoffs without Nurk. And everyone was wrong. They do what they’re supposed to do. And now they’ve ripping the home court and are going back with the all-important split. That’s strong.  But… it doesn’t mean the serious is over.  Because it’s not. You know Denver’s not going away.   

Two games into the second round of the NBA playoffs and there’s a theme emerging – this might not be the best NBA playoffs in a long time, but it is the bloodiest in a long time. Steph Curry’s Saw finger and James Harden’s bleeding eyes were bad, but Denver’s Torrey Craig is about to blow past them both.

Let’s go to early in the second quarter. Portland is at the free throw line, the shot is missed and Torrey Craig hits the deck. Initially, it looked fairly innocuous. The kind of collision that happens all the time.

But this was no run of the mill collision. And when you saw it on replay, it looked even worse.

No, that did not look good at all. Craig took a Zach Collins forearm to the face and then, on the way down, appeared to bounce his face off the leg of teammate Monte Morris.

He was down for a little bit and when he got up, I thought dude was hemmoraging. From his nose. I literally was concerned that he might bleed out, right there on the floor. And they were going to apply a tourniquet….to his face.

You lose that much blood, and you’re looking at a transfusion. You get your beak hammered that badly, and you’re getting it reconstructed and can count on breathing through your mouth for a while. And maybe, maybe, if you’re really tough, you make it back for Game 3.

Or, if you’re Torrey Craig, you strap on a mask, you jam a little cotton in what’s left of your shnauze, and show up for the second half:

That’s what I’m saying. Not dead, can’t quit. Busted face? Who cares?! And Not only did he show up, dude was eating glass and draining three’s.

That’s macho. And that’s what I mean when I say this series isn’t over and Denver’s not going away. And Nuggets coach Mike Malone was all about Craig and the way he kept grinding:

Love hearing a coach talk about Craig like that. That cat does have a serious set. And that is contagious: you have a guy with a cracked face and he’s out there hitting the boards and knocking in threes, hell yes, you’re going to dig deeper. 

And that’s why you better not say this series is over. Sure, Portland is going home with the split and their crowd will be hyped. And that barn will be jacked... But Denver has Torrey Craig and neither he nor the Nugget are taking a step back. So not only is that series not over, it’s just getting started.