2020 has sucked for the most part. Kobe dying at 41 in January (RIP), followed by the Amazon and Australian wildfires and then to top it off, a once in 100-year global pandemic that brought everything to a standstill. The pandemic, which is still on-going, basically ended everything including sports. With that my favorite sports story line seemingly ended too. The Cinderella Story.
A Cinderella Story in sporting terminology is a situation in which a team, or individual achieves success far beyond what was believed to be possible. Most Cinderella Stories end without a championship, such as the 2015-2016 Oklahoma City Thunder, or the 2009-2010 Philadelphia Flyers, or even more recently the 2019 Green Bay Packers. In each of these situations the metaphorical “clock struck 12” and the hopes and dreams of each teams were crushed without realizing their goal. Now, these stories are great. Especially, if you don’t have your home team in the playoffs. But the greatest Cinderella Stories are of course where teams go all the way. Think of the 2004 Boston Red Sox, or the 2011-2012 Los Angeles Kings or the 2018-2019 Toronto Raptors.
It seemed then because of a global pandemic ruining 2020, Cinderella story lines were ruined as well. That is until a small market team on the West Coast showed up in a big way. The Portland Trailblazers. Now, the Blazers shouldn’t be a Cinderella Story as they reached the Western Conference Finals in 2019 only to get swept by the Golden State Warriors so everyone knew they were good.
What makes them so likeable is that at the beginning of the 2020 NBA season the roster dealt with some big injuries. Jusuf Nurkic their starting center was still recovering from a gruesome leg injury, Zac Collins had issues all season and Rodney Hood tore his Achilles.
The Blazers had a losing season going into the new year which is precisely when the leader of the team Damian Lillard went OFF. On January 3rd the Blazers were 15-21 Lillard then went on a tear scoring 30+ points in 14 games with a 61 point game vs the Golden State Warriors, a 47 point game vs the Dallas Mavericks, a 50 point game vs the Indiana Pacers, a 48 vs Los Angeles Lakers, a 51 point game vs the Utah Jazz, a 42 point game vs the Utah Jazz again and then a 45 point vs the Denver Nuggets. He helped claw the team back into playoff contention until unfortunately suffering an injury which left him sidelined.
When the NBA shut down in March the Blazers had a 29-37 record. Luckily, they were invited to the NBA bubble to compete for the eight seed. With the last eight games before the post season Portland won six, squeaking in as the eight seed. As incredible as it was to watch Portland fight into the playoffs it gets even better.
In their first playoff game in 2020 the eight seed Blazers beat the first seed Los Angeles Lakers. It was absolutely shocking. The second game the Lebron led Lakers responded by tying up the series at a game each, which was to be expected. What wasn’t expected was for a freak accident to cause Damian Lillard’s finger to be dislocated, causing him to sit out for the fourth quarter.
Going into the third game of the series it was looking extremely bleak for the Blazers, nonetheless it may be remembered as one of the most entertaining games in recent memory. After going 2-11 in the first three quarters Carmelo Anthony then proceeded to hit five straight mid range jump shots. The Lakers and the Blazers traded buckets back and forth for 5 minutes until eventually fatigue took over. The Lakers ultimately won and now have a 2-1 series lead going into tonight’s matchup.
As it seems that this Cinderella Story gets closer to midnight. It’s eerily positive, the Blazers to many NBA fans are the scrappy underdog that shouldn’t even be there and the Lakers, well…it’s the Lakers. If you aren’t a Lakers die hard then you’re probably rooting against them. Carmelo Anthony in the playoffs is one of the best stories of the year and Damian Lillard is nearing likeability levels that I can only remember ever happening for one other player, Steph Curry.
If the Blazers do lose tonight the series is most likely over but with that being said, it is going to be a dog fight and nothing is more unpredictable than a dog with it’s back against the wall.