Time for some real talk: In early May, things weren't quite going well for me. School had thrown me a curveball that would set me back, a few things beyond my control happened, and I was pretty depressed. Then that shot happened.
I've never been silly enough to define myself by my sports fandom, but like most sports fans I was living and dying by Houston's playoff series. Winning gave me 24 hours of happiness followed by worry over the next game. Losing gave me 48 hours of sadness, depression, and anger (mostly at referees).
After the 2011 Finals, LeBron said he couldn't watch television for months because he would be watching a cooking show and they would say, "Here's how to make an omelette and LeBron choked in the Finals!" Well, that's how things were after that playoff series. "And the Red Sox drop another game, but at least they didn't lose in the heartbreaking fashion that the Rockets did!" (Cue highlights of shot played 100 times in a row).
I know Portland will love that shot forever. Good for them. It will haunt me forever.
I didn't watch a second of basketball in the second round except to see Portland lose. I didn't watch the East or West Finals. I barely watched the Finals. It was too painful, because even when Portland wasn't playing the announcers found any way they could to remind me about it or show it. I couldn't watch ESPN for months. Everywhere I went, there it was. I see Chandler Parsons' outstretched arm in my mind as clearly as if it was happening in front of me right now.
I didn't want to talk about it. I didn't want to to name any of the players on the Blazers, especially You-Know-Who. I called him Point Guard #0 like an NCAA game. On a podcast, Mike joked that he was my Voldemort. The name stuck, and that's what I've called him ever since. Eventually, I got the idea to make this a Harry Potter-themed preview. So, it's The Order of the Phoenix vs. The Death Eaters.
In a perfect world, the Order would face off against the Death Eaters after a week off, like in football. Voldemort's crew would be coming off their fifth game in four nights and would have played a noon game today as well. But you can't determine how the Battle of Hogwarts goes down. You can only try to win.
Tip off is at 7pm CST
Point Guard: Albus Dumbledore vs. Voldemort
He's Voldemort. No question. I'm too terrified to say his real name lest he turn his wrath upon me again. Voldemort had 7 horcruxes. The Blazers have 6 losses. Dare I say that a loss could be his ultimate undoing? No, I don't dare.
The only positive thing here is that Patrick Beverley played through a knee injury and never looked like the Bev that we've come to expect on defense. He's the Rockets' leader on defense and is the heart and soul of this squad with what he bring in terms of intensity, determination, and grit.
In the Order, Dumbledore was the leader and the only one that Voldemort ever feared. The Rockets will have to hope that Beverley can partially stop Voldemort, who's been going absolutely bonkers in anticipation for this game. These two have faced off multiple times before, but none were as good as this fight (mostly because J.K Rowling couldn't write a fight scene to save her life).
Advantage: Death Eaters
Shooting Guard: Neville Longbottom vs. Peter Pettigrew
James Harden and Neville Longbottom have much in common: ridiculed, soft-spoken, and disliked outside their social circles. The fear is that if this game is close late, Harden won't be able to match Voldemort punch-for-punch. He's been in big situations and performed, but this is another level against the man who always seems to come out on top. It's one thing to beat the Professor Quirrells of the world*. It's another thing entirely to take on the Dark Lord himself. In the final film, Neville does stand up to Voldemort and the entirety of the Death Eaters. A similar defiance by Harden against Voldemort's tyranny tonight could make him a hero.
Many Blazers fans are good people at heart. Like Peter Pettigrew, they started off as kind folks but were eventually turned to the dark side by Voldemort. Wesley Matthews was a likable player in his first couple of years (after he got the Jazz stink off of him), but recently has turned into a nuisance much as Peter did. Nevertheless, you can't discount his importance to the resurrection of the Blazers' contendership. He does the dirty work and is willing to sacrifice his body to help the team win. Likewise, Wormtail was willing to sacrifice his hand to resurrect his master.
*Yes, I know Neville didn't beat Quirrell but his actions preceding the fight won the House Cup for Gryffindor so I'm counting it. Never question my Harry Potter knowledge again.
Advantage: Order of the Phoenix
Small Forward: Severus Snape vs. Severus Snape
A3za vs. Batumshakalaka.
Two players with similar skill sets. Both are great wing defenders who can be streaky from distance. Both have been run into the ground at times by coaches unable to find suitable replacements.
Both Ariza and Batum have been traded from the Rockets. Snape came back the Death Eaters, but he was always Order to the end.
Oddly enough, Severus Snape has easily become one of the most beloved characters in the Harry Potter series. The Blazers love their Snape, but Rockets fans still have reservations about their version on offense. But if there's one thing that Snape can do, it's defend with all his heart.
Quick note: Potter Puppet Pals are not allowed here. That's some of the most annoying drivel on the net today.
Power Forward: Molly Weasley vs. Bellatrix Lestrange
Bellatrix is especially dark at heart. LaMarcus Aldridge found ways to use that darkness to his personal gain in the first two games of the playoff series, fooling referees into thinking that Omer Asik was not allowed near him. His Imperius Curses eventually wore off and when Tiago Splitter applied the same pressure that Asik had tried, LMA was unable to get the referees to give him a force field. Should LMA try his tricks again so soon after suspected Death Eater Tony Brothers screwed the Rockets two nights ago, a riot by the Toyota Center's Order supporters is inevitable.
Donatas Motiejunas: unassuming player that's full of spunk and creativity. Molly Weasley ran her household in an orderly way, much as D-Mo has run the paint in recent games for the Rockets. For years we suspected that Molly Weasley was just a chatty housewife, but like D-Mo when she showed up, she really showed up.
Case in point: unlike other matchups, we can look at how this one played out. If you've read the books, you know that this video has a single swear word said with such vehemence that even I cowered before it.
Oddly, I'm somehow still putting LMA ahead of D-Mo here. Because I'm not stupid.
Advantage: Death Eaters
Center: Fred & George Weasley vs. Barty Crouch, Jr.
Of these 3 men, one is dead, another is without a soul, and the third has only one ear. Robin Lopez doesn't really fit in there, but since he's out we'll call his replacement Crouch. I really like the idea of Lopez being Alecto Carrow though.
Calling Dwight Howard the Weasley twins was fairly easy. They like to have a good time but get serious when the moment calls for it. The were two of the earliest members of Dumbledore's Army. The Weasleys put themselves in the line of fire for their friends and family time and time again. Dwight has proven that he's grown close with this team and you can't deny the family atmosphere.
The Rockets need Dwight to step up one more time. With Carrow/Crouch out of the way, this is George Weasley's time to shine. Really, we need Dwight to be saint-like.
Advantage: Order of the Phoenix
Order: Kingsley Shacklebolt (Corey Brewer), Arthur Weasley, Minerva McGonagall, Rubeus Hagrid (this has to be Joey Dorsey), Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger (if they can be torn from their snogging)
Death Eaters: Draco Malfoy (if you don't think Steve Blake is Malfoy then you are wrong about everything), Avery, Dolohov, Crabbe (they actually have Allen Crabbe on their team), Goyle (Chris Kaman for sure), Yaxley, Fenrir Greyback; Alecto Carrow is injured
Advantage: Death Eaters
Prediction: We know how the Battle of Hogwarts ended. All we can is hope that this battle ends in similar fashion.
Trail Blazers vs Rockets coverage
One last serious note for Blazers fans that are coming here: We would love to talk about this game since it is what is happening tonight. It is not May 2, so any gloating about that day will be met harshly. Any attempts to put a gif, picture, or video of you-know-what will be seen as trolling. Your comments will be deleted and you will receive a warning. I don't like to do this, but last year we had a huge influx of trolling Blazers fans throughout the series and I won't let our readership be taunted. We all have internet access. We can look things up if we want. Stay civil. That goes for everyone, including TDS readers. We're big on discussion and this game is what should be discussed. You have all been warned.