PORTLAND — After another Steph Curry explosion and another squandered lead, the Portland Trail Blazers watched their season come to an end on Monday night as the Warriors outlasted them in overtime, 119-117, to earn their fifth straight trip to the NBA Finals.
But in a playoff run filled with stunning, surreal, and unforgettable moments, Portland still had a few tricks up its sleeve, this time from Meyers Leonard, who had the performance of his life before the Warriors closed the book on their Western Conference Finals series. Leonard, who in the previous game served up an appetizer of what was to come, went absolutely berserk on Monday, equaling a career-high 25 points in the first half while shooting a blistering 4-for-5 from three to set the Moda Center crowd ablaze.
He finished with 30 points and 12 rebounds, putting the exclamation point on his performance with a vicious one-handed tomahawk jam over Draymond Green late in the fourth quarter that nearly knocked the Earth off its orbit and made us all believe, albeit briefly, that the Blazers might keep their magical season alive. That was not to be, because the Warriors do not believe in magic, instead opting to be the harbingers of the crushing finality of real life for basically the entirety of their run.
Despite the outcome, it was personal vindication for Leonard, who’s been in and out of the Blazers’ lineup all season, particularly in the playoffs as the team leaned heavily on the more favorable matchups afforded by Enes Kanter and Zach Collins. But as Terry Stotts, to his credit, continued to make adjustments against the Warriors’ onslaught, Leonard finally got his opportunity, and he may have salvaged a career that had been looking bleaker and bleaker with every “DNP — Coach’s Decision.”