Everybody remembers Damian Lillard’s “.9” shot. Just say “point-nine” to a Trail Blazer fan and you get a smile.
It was Damian Lillard taking “Dame Time” or “Lillard Time” (whichever you prefer) to a national level. And it was his first big moment on a truly national stage -- the clinching game of a playoff series.
But it’s difficult to understand the true dramatic impact of that shot without watching the entire rollercoaster of a game. And that opportunity will come tonight (6 o’clock) on NBC Sports Northwest.
It was May 2, 2014 and the Trail Blazers had been eliminated from the playoffs in the first round six straight times and hadn’t advanced to the second round in 14 years. The Rockets, with Dwight Howard and James Harden, were heavily favored to win the series.
But the Trail Blazers stunned everyone by going into Houston and capturing the first two games of the series on the road. But when the best-of-seven affair returned to Portland, the Rockets got a split in two games that went into overtime. Then Houston won a home game to send the series back to Portland.
For Trail Blazer fans, accustomed to seeing their team lose in the first round, the situation was dire. If their team couldn’t win a Game 6 at home to close out the series, could it possibly win a Game 7 in Houston?
Lillard made sure it didn’t go that far with his long three-pointer off an in-bounds pass with less than a second to play -- a dramatic moment that turned Moda Center into a cauldron of ecstatic emotion made only louder after Lillard grabbed the PA microphone and shouted “Rip City!”
Just prior to that, Chandler Parsons had put the Rockets up 98-96 with a reverse layup that froze the clock at “.9.”
And at that point, to all the world, the Trail Blazers seemed destined to make a trip back to Houston to fritter away what was once a 3-1 series lead and lose another first-round series.
But as he has done since his arrival in Portland, Damian Lillard made a difference -- as the horn went off ending the game.
It was the first time we’d seen such a thing in the playoffs. But it wouldn’t be the last.