Little Brothers And Favorite Sons Make Their Mark In Rare Win At Oracle Arena
While getting their first win at Oracle Arena in over five years was the primary payoff for Portland’s 110-109 overtime victory versus the Warriors Thursday night, there were ancillary successes to be celebrated by the road team.
There was Jusuf Nurkić, who responded to having the offense run through him for much of Thursday night’s game by going for 27 points, 12 rebounds and four assists in easily one of his best performances of the season.
And then there’s Terry Stotts, who got his 292nd victory as a Trail Blazer Thursday night, which moves him past Rick Adelman for second in franchise history in wins. Stotts now only trailesHall of Famer Dr. Jack Ramsay for most coaching wins in team history.
CJ McCollum came up with two huge buckets in overtime, Nik Stauskas made his first three-pointer in nearly two weeks and Moe Harkless made plays on both ends of the floor and looked as though he has finally overcome the knee injury that kept him sidelined for all of the offseason and much of the first two months of the regular season. Again, ancillary successes.
But for Damian Lillard and Seth Curry, Thursday’s win carried a bit more significance, if for mostly unrelated reasons.
For Curry, Thursday’s game represented an opportunity to step out of the large shadow cast by his older brother Stephen, a two-time Most Valuable Player, five-time All-Star and three-time NBA Champion.
And while the younger Curry might not have outplayed his brother, who finished with a game-high 29 points, seven assists and five rebounds, his contribution Thursday night was integral to the Trail Blazers getting a rare win at Oracle.
"We need all the wins we can get on the road," said Portland's Curry. "It gives us a lot of confidence coming into this environment and playing well against this team. A great team win. Everybody contributed and everybody had a part in this win."
Though Seth contributed more than most, especially early in the fourth quarter when it looked as though the Warriors might make a push. After his brother hit a 32-foot stepback to cut the lead to 75-74 with 10:46 to play in regulation, Seth scored 11-straight points for Portland, including three three-pointers, two of which were made while being defended by his kin.
"(Seth) was huge," said Damian Lillard. "He carried us right there for a second and I think that was when the momentum started to really come into our favor, the crowd started to quiet a little bit. Momentum came in our favor during his run."
After the game, a reporter opined that Seth was "channeling" the play of his older brother, which served as a reminder of what it's like to play in the same league as your brother, who also just happens to be one of the greatest shooters in NBA history. But Seth wasn't hearing it, especially after playing an important role in getting a win versus his brother's team. Rather than let with the unintended slight slide, the younger Curry made sure to note there was only one person primarily responsible for his performance.
"Nah," sais Seth, "I was channeling myself."
While Seth Curry was doing it for himself and all the younger brothers, Damian Lillard's performance Thursday night served as an Oracle Arena curtain call for one of Oakland's favorite sons.
Having grown up just a few miles away in the Brookfield neighborhood, Lillard spent a considerable amount of his youth cheering on the Warriors at Oracle. And with much of his family and friends still residing in the East Bay, games versus the Warriors at Oracle have been special for the 6-3 point guard out of Weber State, even if wins were hard to come by.
But with the Warriors moving to a new arena in San Francisco prior to the start of the 2019-20 season, Thursday's game was the last regular season game in Oakland of Lillard's career.
"I grew up coming here," said Lillard, who received a warm welcome from the otherwise hostile crowd during introductions. "It’s a pleasure to be a fan growing up and then to be able, my first seven years of my career, come and play in front of my family and friends. It’s unfortunate that they moving on, but it happens. I’m glad I was able to do both."
Lillard credits growing up in Oakland for his resilience and toughness, and both of those traits served him well in the critical moments of Thursday's victory.
Even though he's become well known for his late-game heroics throughout his career, Lillard struggled in the fourth quarter. He missed a long stepback two-pointer with 30.7 to play and Portland leading 102-99, which allowed Kevin Durant to tie the game at 102-102 with a three-pointer ten seconds later. And with a chance to win the game at the end of regulation, Lillard was stripped by Stephen Curry, forcing the Oakland native to hoist up a wild three-pointer with under two seconds to play than hit nothing but the shot clock.
But when he had a chance to redeem himself, Lillard didn't think twice. After Moe Harkless stole Curry's inbound pass with 14.3 seconds to pay in overtime and the Warriors leading 109-107, Lillard sprinted down the court in hopes of scoring before Golden State had time to react. The Warriors were able to get back, cutting off Lillard's drive to the rim and forcing a kick out to Al-Farouq Aminu, who had to chance the ball down to prevent what would have likely been a game-ending turnover.
But Aminu corralled the ball at just about the same time that Lillard had finished his run to the three-point line in hopes of getting one last look a a game-winner. Aminu recognized the opportunity immediately, shoveling the ball to Lillard as three Warriors descended upon him.
But despite the defense and having failed on multiple occasions to get a basket late at the end of regulation, Lillard rose up and shot a fadeaway three with just over five seconds to play in overtime.
"Immediately after regulation I was like, I missed a stepback when we was up three, they hit a three, I lose the ball in the last couple seconds, so i was upset with myself," said Lillard, who did his post-game interview shirtless in order to let the world see the "OAKLAND" tattoo that takes up the majority of his chest. "But everybody kept telling me ‘Next play, move on to the next thing.’ I always convince myself that I’m going to come up big at some point. CJ got it going a little bit, so I went off the ball and then when the time came I ended up back in the same position and I was able to knock the last one down."
Unless the Blazers and Warriors meet in the 2019 post-season, Lillard's game-winning shot will go down as his last at Oracle, a fitting end to a building that helped shape his love of the game.
"That's a hell of a way to go out," said Lillard. "We need this win, it was a big game for us, especially having to play them two times in a row. Having played such a solid game, almost gave it up. It was huge for us, for us to have to dig the way we had to dig, come up big on so many possessions after we had kind of let them back in to the game. That was a great, great win, a great way to go out of here."