Damian Lillard put his stamp on Game 1 of the Lakers-Blazers series by hitting a shot from 35 feet. It was a warning of what was to come as the superstar put his team on his back and fended off the title favorites for a victory.
And that, friends, may have been the last positive coda on Portland's season. Because since then, all LeBron James & Co. have done is beat the living snot out of their inferior opponents and served notice to the rest of the world that any championship will run through purple-and-gold-lined streets.
Los Angeles' Game 4 rout was immediate and efficient. It should have come with a parental guidance trigger warning as things were far more out of hand than the final 20-point margin suggests. As if the thorough ass-kicking wasn't enough, James took the opportunity to lay it on as thick as he always does by hoisting up a Lillard-length triple try to open up a 38-point lead in the third quarter.
You already know what happened. The heat check was answered and the symbolism heavy.
James may be the greatest basketball player to ever step on a court. He may be my personal favorite athlete of all time. But even his staunchest defenders and zealots (Wright, Nick) would admit that the man is more theatrical than a fourth-period drama class at a particularly attention-hungry high school. If each game were a movie, Bill Simmons would award him the Vincent Hanna They Knew Award for overacting 100 percent of the time.
The only reason James fired that shot, from that spot, at that moment, was to mark his territory. To assert dominance. To hammer home the reality that he is this series' Alpha Dog. It was self-serving and obvious and petty and transparent. But so too is the entire LeBron experience.
Because as much as you can critique the process, the results speak for themselves. Swishing the triple was empirically awesome. It served as the ultimate silencer on any notion that Lillard is anywhere close to usurping Western supremacy from James.
The great ones seek out great moments. The all-timers are looking for them all the time and know how to choreograph if given the slightest opportunity. James wasn't subtle with his staging but then again, is he ever?