Of all people it was Joel Freeland who had to take and make the critical free throws to put this one away. But make no mistake about it, at the end of regulation and overtime it was all Damian Lillard.
Lillard has made his name throughout the season as a clutch artist. He was someone who was never afraid of the big moment or afraid to take the big shot. He drained the game-tying 3-pointer in regulation and hit critical basket after critical basket to help the Blazers miraculously pull out a 122-120 victory over the Rockets at Toyota Center in Houston on Sunday for a 1-0 series lead.
Portland trailed almost the entire way after the first quarter. The Blazers could force feed LaMarcus Aldridge on his way to 46 points all they wanted. The shooting was not efficient enough from the guards to withstand Houston once the team got energy.
That came in the form of Patrick Beverley picking up a technical foul and using his physicality to bother Portland all night long. Houston looked like it would coast with Chandler Parsons (24 points) and James Harden (27 points on 8-for-28 shooting) leading the offensive charge. Dwight Howard had 27 points and 15 rebounds.
Even deep into the fourth quarter, it looked like the Rockets had this one easily decided. Then the fouling began and Dwight Howard was forced to the line.
Howard made his free throws in overtime, but he missed several key free throws to put this one away. The Rockets had to take him out.
So here came the feeding of Aldridge and the driving of Lillard, who finished with 31 points in his first Playoff game, with the middle suddenly open. The Blazers made this a game and took it from the Rockets.