Posted Apr 23 2011 10:45PM
PORTLAND -- Most of us missed the first sign that something special was about to happen.
Brandon Roy's pull-up 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds left in the third quarter, and the Portland Trail Blazers trailing by 21 on their home floor, bounced off the back, front and side of the rim before falling through net. It wasn't a basket that suggested something epic was imminent, that the greatest playoff comeback in franchise history was about to kick off.
Even Roy admitted later that he it didn't feel like anything special. He was just trying to make it respectable after the Mavericks led by as many as 23 points. He didn't even plan on playing the hero on this night, not until he was neck-deep into what he called one of the most "surreal" performances of his career. Some 11 minutes and 49 seconds of game time later Roy had put the finishing touches on a performance for the ages, thrilling the Rose Garden crowd and anyone else watching, outside of Dallas, of course, with a virtuoso performance few people expected form a hobbled former All-Star playing off the bench.
"It didn't quite feel real when I was playing, and even now," Roy said, rubbing his shaggy beard after his 18-point fourth quarter charge led the Blazers to an 84-82 win and tied this playoff series at 2-2. "I've been in some pretty good zones before, but none like tonight. Even playing that game, it kind of seemed like it was over. Dallas was just pounding us. We had no rhythm the entire night. So to go on a run like we did -- I remember sitting on the sideline and Coach was like ... basically saying that if we lose tonight we were done. So we need to keep [LaMarcus Aldridge] in the game, so I'm looking like, 'OK, I've got to try to help LaMarcus out a little bit.' I didn't know it would turn into 18 points."
No one did. No one had a clue that a couple of crowd energizing possessions would turn into a seismic shift in this series, which resumes Monday in Dallas for Game 5. Roy scored a game-high 24 points, none more important than 10-footer he banked in with 39.2 seconds to play that turned out to be the winning margin. The Blazers became just the third team in the shot clock era to win a playoff game when trailing by 18 or more points entering the fourth quarter. Boston did it at home against New Jersey on May 25, 2002 and the Suns did it in Houston on May 11, 1994.
Roy's teammates mobbed him on the floor as the game clock expired and fans danced in the aisles, hugging and screaming about what had just transpired. "With everything I've been through this season, it all came into that moment there on the court," he said, "when guys were grabbing me and cheering me on. It was real special."
Moments earlier, Roy was in the air with a hand raised, praying that Jason Terry's 25-footer at the buzzer wouldn't ruin what he and the Blazers had worked so hard for. Terry's shot bounced off the back of the rim as the buzzer sounded. There was only way one for this game to end, and that was with Roy playing the role of the white knight just days after being case as a villain, by some, for complaining about his diminished role and reduced minutes on a team that was his a short time ago.
He played just eight minutes in a Game 2 loss in Dallas Tuesday night and vented about it on his way out of the American Airlines Center that night. By the time the sun rose over the Willamette Valley Wednesday morning, Roy was the central figure in a full blown controversy. He talked of holding back tears and seeing his career flash before his eyes (missing 35 regular season games after having surgery on both knees). But he redeemed himself with a game-changing effort off the bench in the Blazers' Game 3 win Thursday.
He added an unforgettable chapter to his story, though, Saturday night. His teammates stood in awe as the postgame locker room scene unfolded, complete with animated re-enactments of different moments from Roy's jaw-dropping 11 minutes of fourth-quarter magic. "This is where amazing happens," reserve guard Armon Johnson said to backup big man Chris Johnson, both of them shaking their heads after having lived through the unimaginable.
Former Blazers great Terry Porter was there, too. He struggled to find a specific individual performance from the past that was the equal of what he witnessed on this night. "We've always been on the other side of these sorts of things," Porter said, referring first to Michael Jordan's trip to the "zone" in Game 1 of the 1992 NBA Finals, when Jordan torched the Blazers for 35 first-half points, and then to the Lakers' furious Game 7 comeback in the 2000 Western Conference finals, the greatest Game 7 comeback in NBA history. "I'm sure Clyde (Drexler) had some great moments and I know we played in so many big games over the years," Porter continued. "But this has to be up there with the greatest performance in franchise history. It has to be."
It does. Roy had a hand in 12 of the Trail Blazers' 15 field goals in the fourth quarter, dishing out four assists and making eight of his 10 shots from the floor. He scored 21 points in the final 12:02 of game action and is averaging 20 points in the last two games of this series after scoring a total of two in the first two games.
That might explain the bewildered look on Roy's face as he was being mobbed by the rest of the Blazers at game's end. How do you react to the unthinkable? How do you explain the unimaginable?
"Honestly, I really don't know what I was feeling," he said. "I just felt really good but at the same time, when they were grabbing me, I just needed to embrace someone ... it still just doesn't feel real yet. It was just an unbelievable game and the comeback ..."
Around here, it'll be one for the ages.
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