At least it wasn’t Kevin Durant. Wait, actually, it pretty much was. The long Longhorn had 36 points or whatever on 28 shots, and also grabbed 10 rebounds. He did his part. Although, he wasn’t quite Kevin the Destroyer of Hope and Reaper of Fear and Pillager of Souls. There’s a feeling, watching a team play Durant’s Thunder, watching that team jump out to a 20-8 lead on the Thunder, watching that team take a 10-point lead into halftime, even watching that team have a two-point lead on the Thunder inside of two minutes to go in the game—anyway, there’s a feeling watching that team do that stuff that’s sort of like watching ants. Ants look happy, or at least I can ascribe happiness to them because I have an imagination and a cheery view of insect life, as they wander around the Earth, looking for sugar granules and marrying into royalty and playing Minecraft or whatever. But they don’t – or more accurately, can’t, because their ants – realize that a giant boot attached to an impossibly powerful human foot waits to crush them at any moment (that was a metaphor and Durant is the human and his scoring ability is the boot). The Blazers might have seen the shadow of the boot, maybe even lost a few scouts, but it didn’t crush their entire world. Instead, these ants just sort of died of natural ant causes.
LaMarcus Aldridge had a shot. He didn’t make it. He had a lot of shots (22). He didn’t make a lot of them (5-22). The last one, though, the one with 2 seconds left, with the Blazers trailing by one, from right around the top of the key, HIS SPOT, when he was pretty wide open, yeah, that’s the one that the people remember. If he made it, the Blazers would have probably won the game and he would have been the subject of a lot of celebratory tweets and maybe some couples would have conceived children and named them LaMarcus or Aldridge (Portland! Keep it weird!). But instead, he didn’t make it, and the Blazers lost, and the tweets were sort of like if Twitter was around for the sacking of Troy (“@TheREAL_Priam: this horse sux /dead”), and some couples will conceive children in sadness and name them Balthasar or Ludwig (Portland! Maybe don’t be so weird!).
According to reports, Aldridge had a groin issue. I don’t know much beyond that, except that all groin injuries tend to make “groin” into an onomatopoeia. “Ah, groin!” says the groin.
But don’t be too stricken with grief; there were some good things. Robin Lopez had 17 points and 14 rebounds. Nicolas Batum scored 18 points and made a number of momentous plays to advance the Trail Blazer cause in that Batumy way that led me to call him “QUIET LIKE AN ARMY OF BUTTERFLIES” (which I’m reusing here because that’s the best thing I’ve ever written). The silveriest lining though, even silverier than Batum because we know Batum, was the play of C. J. McCollum. As Mo Williams sat out the last game of his personal leave (Mo will be back for the game against the Clippers) and Earl Watson continues his transformation into Morty Seinfeld, McCollum again found solid and relied-upon minutes, anchoring the scoring for the bench unit, and also providing a spark running alongside Lillard with the starting unit. The rookie guard finished the game with 15 points, but his strong shooting in key moments and general fearlessness should be reason enough for excitement far beyond a single loss in February.
The most un-silveriest lining: Joel Freeland left the game with a knee injury and did not return. It has been diagnosed as an MCL strain and he will miss 4-8 weeks.
After the game, Kevin Durant said something about not liking the Blazers and LaMarcus Aldridge echoed the same sentiment—I mean Aldridge said that he didn’t like the Thunder, not that he agreed with Durant that the Blazers are unlikable. Anyway, I don’t really care about any of that stuff. An eye for an eye and the whole world goes blind, guys.