Robinson Finds Time To Shine In Game Six

by Casey Holdahl
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By KEVIN HUDSON

There were big moments and historic performances in Portland’s first-round series win over the Houston Rockets.

None was bigger, in terms of drama and stage, than Damian Lillard’s series-clinching triple Friday night at the Moda Center.

LaMarcus going for 40+ in back-to-back road wins to open the series might be a close second, in terms of drama, but was just as crucial to the final outcome of the series.

But there are other moments that help define the series up and down the roster.

There was Dorell Wright turning into a shot-blocking phenom with nine blocks in the first four games of the series, or Wes Matthews finding his rhythm on offense in game four, then going to the ground late in the contest to wrestle a loose ball from Dwight Howard, or Thomas Robinson coming in to game six at the Moda Center after seeing very limited action in the series and lighting up the crowd early in the second half with his energy and ability.

For Robinson, tossed on the proverbial scrap heap by Houston and salvaged by the Trail Blazers, the win, and his eight-point, three-rebound contribution, was something of a vindication.

And as big as Lillard’s game and series-winning shot was for the city of Portland, it was just as big for Robinson.

“That shot was big for me, but I’m going to leave it at that,” Robinson said.

Asked if beating the Rockets specifically made advancing out the first round of the playoffs even sweeter, he replied simply, “sweeter than cake.”

The lack of braggadocio in victory from the young forward is a sign of the biggest development his game has seen this year: professionalism. Robinson admits that learning to be a day-in, day-out professional and a team-first player are what he has learned most from his season in Portland.

“What I had to get used to this year is doing things that’s big for my team and that’s all I try to do, man. That’s all I try to do is be big for my team,” he said. “My personal accolades and my personal achievements will come later. I’m two years in so for right now I’m on a winning team, on a great team, playing behind a legend, so I’m just going to embrace this moment.”

Robinson pointed to veteran players like Mo Williams, Earl Watson and Wes Matthews as teammates who have tried to impart guidance to him as a young player in the league.

“He’s hungry,” Williams said. “We call it thirsty and sometimes that thirst can be going in the wrong direction…we just make sure we get that thirst and all that motivation in the right direction and channel it and get him to understand it’s a process because he just wants to be the best.”

Williams also said that after seeing Robinson benched completely in game three, he went to the coach with some other players to tell him that they needed Robinson’s energy in the rotation.

“Us veterans had enough respect for his game to go to coach and say ‘what we get from T-Rob, we need it,” Williams said. “He’s been in the rotation ever since then, ever since veteran guys went to coach and said we need T-Rob’s energy and he’s been great.”

For Robinson, his newfound understanding of professionalism helped him stay ready for an opportunity like he found in game six, where he notched career highs in minutes played and points to help the Trailblazers advance in the Playoffs for the first time in 14 years.

“Coach made a decision and we went with it. Whoever he calls, whoever is that person out there getting the minutes has to perform. Tonight it was me and I just went out there and tried to play my best,” Robinson said. “You’ve got to stay ready at all times and guys like Earl and Wes and Mo stressed that to me all year.”

As for his potential role against San Antonio or Dallas in the next round, his approach is again simplistic.

“Coach is going to come up with a game plan and whatever that game plan is, whatever that rotation is, I’m going to be ready.”