Saturday, April 23, 2011

Forget What You Know

Tonight was one of those all-too rare occasions where I was reminded why I love sports this much. It's easy to grow cynical when things like the on-going NFL lockout demonstrate just how selfish and petulant people can be when squabbling over amounts of money that would make Scrooge McDuck blush. Or when something as callous and ill-conceived as "The Decision" happens. Or when already-talented baseball players defile the game by taking PEDs. So I'd like to thank Brandon Roy for this evening's display of "Holy #&$^%!" basketball.

I've actually been waiting for something like this since the playoffs started. I've been salivating over them since the matchups were set, and for the most part, they've been every bit as stellar as I'd dared to hope. It's been one jaw-dropping performance after another. Derrick Rose, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Rajon Rondo, LeBron James, the list goes on. That said, we officially got our first transcendent "I will remember watching this for the rest of my life because it was bigger than the game" moment of the 2011 postseason tonight.

There's an old saying that in order to truly learn, you have to forget what you know. Well, Brandon Roy forgot everything. He forgot his mistake of publicly complaining about a lack of minutes a few days ago. He forgot that what was once destined to be a brilliant career has been considerably dulled in its luster by repeated injuries. Most importantly, he forgot that NBA players with two surgically repaired knees aren't supposed to turn into surgeons themselves. After a truly abysmal start to the game, Portland trailed the Dallas Mavericks 67-44 in the third quarter when Roy started asserting his will and taking a scalpel to the Mavs. Hitting improbable jumpers, driving the lane with abandon, and ignoring what was probably a dire strain on his knees, the man simply refused to quit. When he got rolling, you could feel the momentum shift through the TV. It didn't matter that he couldn't elevate as he once did on shots, or that his first step was diminished, Roy just started burying buckets. A whole heaping bunch of them. Really, it was kind of like watching Jordan in the '98 finals again. He hit shot after shot after shot, including a beautiful step-back jumper to narrow the gap to 77-70 and a killer finish at the rim to make it 80-74. He dished out savvy assists to teammates and traded dueling baskets with Dallas' Shawn Marion. He was flat-out unstoppable. And then the real magic began.

With 1:06 on the game clock, it already felt like his game, but Roy's 4-point play here was a certifiable "goosebump" moment. Foot on the gas, game on the line, he drained a three and drew a foul on the shot. The ensuing free throw tied the game at 82 all. The Portland crowd, already at a fever pitch, absolutely came unhinged. I'd guess decibel levels in the building were something like what you'd experience standing directly in front of a jet engine. After a dubious decision by the refs to overturn an out-of-bounds call in Portland's favor, the Blazers came back up the floor, and everyone watching knew exactly where the ball was going, in whose hands the fate of the game rested ...

And Brandon Roy nailed it. Old-school Tim Duncan-esque banker off the glass, cool as you please. The final basket to cap an epic night of work. 84-82 Portland lead. Jason Kidd missed a 3 for Dallas, and then Jason Terry did the same as the clock ran out. Final: 84-82 Blazers. Roy's teammate Gerald Wallace after the game: "When people ask me what did I do in the fourth quarter, I'll tell them I stood in the corner and watched The Brandon Roy Show." Truth.

There's an episode of the short-lived TV show "Sports Night" in which a character utters the line, "There's nothing like seeing a guy realize he's not quite done yet." Well, there really, really isn't. Tonight Brandon Roy, he of the unfair injuries and the uncertain career, proved pretty clearly that he's not quite done yet. He may spend the balance of his career playing bench minutes, he may never be the player he could have been. But for this evening, he chose to forget those things, and generate some historical, incredible fireworks instead. I'll never forget watching it happen. Thanks, Brandon.

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