Trail Blazers Answer The Question In Game Three Win
While none of the Trail Blazers would go so far as to call Game Three of their first round playoff series versus the Los Angeles Clippers a must-win, they all knew the reality of what it means to go down 3-0 in a best-of-seven series. No NBA team has ever come back from that deficit to advance to the next round, and the way the first two games went, it would be hard to argue the Trail Blazers would be the first team to do so.
So late in the fourth quarter of Saturday night's game at the Moda Center, Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard got his teammates together and asked them a question. He probably already knew the answer, but he asked the question just the same, as there is little room for error or ambiguity when going up against a formidable opponent while trailing in a playoff series.
"Everybody’s season is on the line right now," said Lillard. "I think there was about two minutes left and there was like a dead ball and I huddled the guys up and I said ‘Are y’all ready to go home? If we don’t finish this out, that’s where we’re going to be headed.’"
Lillard evidently got the answer he was looking for, as the Trail Blazers closed out Game Three on a 15-1 run to come away with a 96-88 victory and force at least a Game Five in Los Angeles. He didn't raise his voice any higher than he need to be heard over the sound of the Moda Center crowd, didn't make any bold proclamations about their potential legacies being sullied or their season before for naught. He just asked a simple question and received equally simple responses.
"We were just talking to each other, all calm," said Maurice Harkless of the late-game huddle. "There was emotion in the words, but we weren’t yelling at each other. We were just talking to each other... We all were like, 'We’ve got to win this game, we gonna do whatever it takes to win.'"
For Harkless, that meant turning two offensive rebounds into two putback dunks in the final minutes of the game. For Mason Plumlee, it was keeping DeAndre Jordan off the boards. And for CJ McCollum, it was hitting a three-pointer that started Portland's game-ending run.
"He just said what everybody was thinking: We ain’t trying to go home yet," said CJ McCollum. "'We’re up right now but we’ve got to make sure we close this game out, don’t get too comfortable. Finish the game and then go home and rest.'"
Which is what they did, and what they'll now be able to do before Game Four on Monday at the Moda Center.