It's games like last night's heart-stopper between the Trailblazers and the Cavaliers that remind basketball fans just how spoiled they are. In an era that's blessed by the presence of megastars like LeBron James and Kevin Durant, it's silly to think that there's a whole secondary tier of stars who have the ability to turn any sleepy December game into a yelp-inducing, holy-shit-did-you-just-see-that shootout. That's the kind of game Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving gave us last night.
It was a game that both players controlled from start to finish, and ended with two ballsy-as-hell plays from each of them. Lillard came out on top, finishing with 36 points, eight rebounds, and 10 assists while doing most of his damage with eight made three-pointers. Irving did his best to match him, finishing the game with 25 points, 10 assists, and a few gorgeous forays into the paint.
That's part of what was so great about Lillard and Irving's matchup: each player managed to dominate the game in his own style. There was Lillard, who has become a demon from three-point territory, knifing into the air over and over again, snapping the net with a perfectly spun ball. And then there's Irving, more of a collection of twitches and bursts than man, zipping into the lane and creating space at will.
And so the two plays that ended the game were a perfect set of punctuation marks. First, there was Irving's magic trick of a dish to Anderson Varejao, which made you believe that Irving might actually have eyes in the back of his head. And then came Lillard's game-winner, which was shot with more than a hint of arrogance from impossible range, and never for a second looked like it wasn't going in.
Now be sure to watch the full highlight reel above. It's two solid minutes of two spectacular players going shot-for-shot, pulling out the beast in each other. Just a scene from another Tuesday night in the NBA.