With 12 seconds left in the Houston Rockets 121-112 win over the Portland Trail Blazers, Chris Paul attacked the basket and dropped in an uncontested layup, an act that Damian Lillard took exception with.
The game was already over, and Lillard went over to Paul — who finished with 37 points — as the final buzzer sounded to see what it was all about. He elaborated to Joe Freeman of the Oregonian following the game:
“I just asked him, I said, ‘What did you get out of that?’ He said, ‘Y’all wasn’t guarding.’ But we got back. There was two guys back. We got back. He was sprinting the court to get the layup and CJ [McCollum] was chasing him. I just felt like in that situation, if you’ve got to do that to go get the layup, what’s the point of it?”
Lillard, to avoid looking like a sore loser, acknowledged that Portland “lost the game fair and square.” That play didn’t decide the outcome, but we now have another case of a player violating one of basketball’s unwritten rules. The internet was up in arms when Jordan Bell hammered home a flashy dunk a few months ago in the middle of a blowout. This situation, however, is different.
It’s much more disrespectful to run up the score on an opponent; when everyone in the arena knows that the game is all but over, getting a few cheap points is a slap in the face to the losing team. Of course, it’s not the end of the world. Terry Stotts, the Blazers’ head coach, realizes that.
“[Chris Paul] can do whatever he wants,” he said. “Look, there’s some etiquette. But I’ve always said we’ve got bigger things to worry about than whether a guy does something like that or not.”
That’s a valid point. Stotts, whether he felt disrespected or not, is thinking about ways to have his team prevent that from happening. The Rockets were without James Harden, which equalized the talent level. Portland’s sluggish start led to a 10-point deficit heading into halftime. They were unable to pull themselves out of it.
Damian Lillard had an excellent outing and finished with 29 points after missing the two previous games with a strained calf. Portland is now 22-19 on the year, and their next game is Friday night against the New Orleans Pelicans.