En route to the Moda Center Monday, The Spurs' motorcoach collided with a TriMet bus. They may have realized then that this was going to be Portland's night.
After Saturday's third straight blowout loss to an experienced, systematic San Antonio team, Blazer fans had plenty of reasons to be disappointed. Portland looked painfully tentative, showing little sign of their distinctive rugged character. Our team had every appearance of being utterly outclassed—their tails tightly tucked between their legs.
I make my way early to the stadium for game four, curious how the fans might react to a depressing end to their season. Feeling shell-shocked myself, I anticipate an apprehensive crowd. However, as if no sweep looms, the vibe in the Rose Quarter is remarkably festive. The stilt lady is there in her shiny purple coolots, the cover band unironically churning out "Material Girl" and "Pour Some Sugar on Me." The drum corps smacking and clanging like a three-wheeled cart rolling down a ruddy hill.
Did I dream those crippling losses? Did everyone forgot that no playoff team ever came back from 0-3 to win a series?
Inside, the Blazers look loose as they warm up, laughing and chatting amongst themselves. Wes Matthews plays catch with a little boy in the front row, Meyers Leonard and Joel Freeland defend each other like they might make a difference in this, the likely last game of their playoff run. The fans seem pumped—there is a palpable air of celebration akin to that first home game against the Rockets, when we were up 2-0 and brimming with hope.
Backed into a corner with nothing to lose, the Blazers show up big time.
Portland dominates a stiff, cold San Antonio squad for 48 glorious minutes. And with more than 20,000 animated fans mirroring the Blazers' passion and energy, the building absolutely rocks. The game is fast, furious and really fun. For the first time in this series, everything seems to go our way. The threes effortlessly fall, we grab what seems like every rebound. Even the bench looks great as guys like Will theThrill and T-Rob make huge plays, each one inciting feverish reaction from the gratified fans. And when Lillard dunks over future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan, the Moda Center erupts.
The hustle, confidence, tough underdog play—Rip City is back.
For a few more days at least.