Houston Rockets v Portland Trailblazers Ð Game Six

John Stockton. Brandon Roy. Damian Lillard.

Three names, three guards, three people who will probably live in infamy in Houston sports history.

ALl three of them broke the hearts of the Houston Rockets at some point in time. Only Roy and Lillard decided to do it for the same team in similar situations.

Stockton’s moment happened in 1997, in Houston. That was the year the Rockets, still running on a bit of the fumes from the 1994-95 back-to-back title years acquired Charles Barkley and determined that they had a squad equipped to get back to the Finals to at least prove to the world that those two titles they won while Michael Jordan was in gambling baseball absence weren’t a fluke.

Then John Stockton happened in Game 6 at the buzzer. Fans old enough to remember can still see him jumping in the air throwing his fist aloft and Greg Gumbel on the call for NBC Sports. The Rockets haven’t been close to the penultimate round of four since.

Roy and Lillard both did it for the Trail Blazers, one in 2008 on a 30-foot heave that seemed absolutely impossible but passed through the nets and sent the hometown Portland crowd into a frenzy. Friday night, Lillard recreated the shot, two feet closer in than Roy with the same result – joy, ovation from the Rip City faithful and faces of shot and utter disappointment on those of the Rockets.

Rockets fans will admit waking up Saturday morning that this one hurt, that it was never even supposed to get this close with this Trail Blazers team and that the fourth quarter had doomed the Rockets all series except for Game 5. For the series, for 14 years of Blazers playoff frustration to end on a buzzer beater is quite poetic. And true to current Rockets nature, heartbreaking.

Year one of Dwight & Harden ends without the team fulfilling its lone offseason goal – getting to the second round and beyond. The West throughout the Greatest First Round In NBA Playoff History was cannibalizing itself at every turn. Outside of the Rockets series, every other series out West was going seven. Except for the Rockets, the last team with the chance to push it to a do-or-die affair on Sunday afternoon. Now head coach Kevin McHale will probably be gone, the team will try desperately to figure out how to cut out the $30 million in fat that is Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik’s contracts for next season and start sort of anew.

But this isn’t about that tortured sports franchise or city, it’s about the guy who added another dagger to their hearts.

Lillard can now officially cement himself as a star, the most consistent presence on this Blazers roster for nearly two years now. Detractors will readily pronounce to the heavens that he takes too many threes or too many ill timed shots to begin with even though he was third in the league in makes behind Golden State’s Beige Brother duo of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and second in attempts behind Curry. He’s proven to be clutch, cold blooded in the worst time for opposing teams and has summed up his play these past two years in the NBA as someone far too confident and sure of his talents.

Adidas was right in letting him be the next guard to lead their brand following the uncertainty of Derrick Rose and that Lillard’s consistency, far better than that of anyone else on that Blazers roster means he’ll be fighting for the Point Guard Championship Belt with Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and a few others in a few years.

The NBA has another star on its hands, one that shows that even patience in a town like Portland can payoff in spades. That nucleus which had been beset by injuries for years finally came up and it had no more perfect foil in the Rockets to do so. LaMarcus Aldridge looked virtually unstoppable on the block, Nicolas Batum made believers of every one who thought his contract was a heavy price tag for the Blazers, Wesley Matthews annoyed James Harden to death until Game 6 when the real James Harden showed up (ironically on both sides of the ball) and Mo Williams emerged as their bench guy who by all means should have been punched out by somebody on the Rockets. They’re the right mix of talent and developed grit, anchored by a 23-year old from Oakland who represents Town Bidness every single time he launches a 3 and walks away as if he’d hit 1,000 of them.

Dame Lillard is singing “Trophies” all over the Houston Rockets today.

Because he’s cold blooded.

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