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The Blazers did it. They won the series. Give it as many asterisks as you want because of the lack of both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Blazers are headed to Oakland on Sunday for the beginning of the second round of the playoffs. This season has been some kind of ride.

With a couple of extra breaks, they’d be headed to Los Angeles for a tough game seven. All credit to the Clippers—even down two starters and All-Stars, those dudes fought like hell. They were in this one to the final seconds. Shoot, they easily could have won. Unlike game five where, despite the close score, it was pretty clear the Blazers had a double-digit victory locked up, the Clippers were in this until the very end.

Earlier this season Mason Plumlee was subject to many intentional fouls due to his poor free throw shooting. In a series against another big man who legit air balled a free throw by at least half a foot, it was fitting that Plumlee and all his hard work to improve at the line was the ultimate difference maker.

Early on it looked like the Clippers were dead, and it wasn’t just because of the excess of blood. Austin Rivers was forced from the game after getting gashed by an inadvertent Al-Farouq Aminu elbow, the cut on his eye so bad and bloodied that the fact he was able to stand on his own felt like an accomplishment. The Blazers were active, getting their hands into passing lanes, snatching up every single offensive rebound available, and grabbing every loose ball.

But the extra possessions only accounted for so much—the Clippers grabbed tight to Portland as they both were sucked under by quicksand. Los Angeles was able to muck things up just enough to disrupt the flow of the game, dragging Portland’s offense down to the gutter. If it wasn’t for Damian Lillard, things wouldn’t have even been close.

Somehow Rivers made it back to the court after eleven stitches, even though his eye made the famous Steve Nash injury look like a scratch. The game was a boxing match, and though the Clippers were punching above their weight, they never gave up. Jamal Crawford got going from the mid-range en route to twenty early points, and the Blazers entered the half with just a two point lead.

The Blazers opened the second half with a flurry of six made threes on six attempts—Moe Harkless chipped in three, Al-Farouq Aminu hit two, and Dame capped it all off with one. With the long ball falling and the role players hitting, normally that would spell success for the Blazers. And while their offense was rolling, their defense was porous. Austin Rivers had himself a one-eyed quarter, and the Clippers suddenly were the beneficiaries of some timely offensive rebounding. The Clippers took their own two point lead into the final frame. This game was nothing if not a million lead changes.

An Allen Crabbe three ballooned Portland’s lead out to six with six minutes left, and with the crowd exploding, it felt like the Clippers had given their last, best punch. When DeAndre Jordan rolled his ankle battling for a loose ball with Plumlee, it felt like a cruel cherry on top of the Clippers’ sad sundae.

Paul Pierce hit a missed free throw out of bounds, giving the Blazers an extra possession, and a McCollum three gave Portland a six point lead. That should have been it, ballgame, but the relentless Clippers kept fighting. Not even a steady stream of blood trickling down the face of Austin Rivers could stop them.

With thirty seconds left and the game tied, CJ missed on a floater in the lane around DeAndre Jordan. Mason Plumlee was being held on the rebound attempt and picked up the foul, and hit both free throws. Jamal Crawford missed a runner on the other end, Plumlee grabbed the rebound and the foul, and hit one of two from the line with just 1.5 seconds left. With no timeouts left, all that was left was a desperation heave from Rivers that came up short. 106-103 Blazers. Game, set, series.

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That was some ending to the series, one that saw the Blazers win four straight games in a row after getting blown out in the first two games. Again, the asterisks, but injuries are an unfortunate part of the game.

And up next, the best team of possibly all time, the Warriors. It’s another asterisks series, with Steph Curry on the shelf with an MCL sprain, but Steph or no it’ll be a tough series. Portland is responsible for one of Golden State’s record-setting nine losses, but that was just one loss. Four out of seven seems damn near impossible. Round two starts Sunday at 12:30pm.

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Courtesy NBA

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