“In the words of [Charles Barkley]…we were playing like wussies,” said Portland guard Wesley Matthews to the Associated Press (h/t ESPN).
Enter Haley Bellows, a Trail Blazers fan and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor with a message tailored for the moment.
Wearing a No. 0 Damian Lillard shirt, Bellows popped up on the Jumbotron at the Moda Center. She held a sign telling the Trail Blazers that bigger miracles have happened than Portland beating the Rockets in the playoffs.
In fitting fashion, the Trail Blazers rallied to beat Houston 123-120 while the young cancer survivor and her sign exploded over social media.
Prior to the game, Bellows posted an Instagram picture stating her goal for the night was just to get on the Jumbotron.
"Goal:Jumbotron! #RipCity #11daysCancerFree#LillardTime #GoBlazers #HoustonFloppets #Game4," Bellows wrote in the caption of her image.
Little did she know that in a few short hours her face would tear across the Internet and the player whose number she wore would be tweeting out his support for her life’s struggle.
After the game, Damian Lillard tweeted a message to his 371,000 Twitter followers asking them to congratulate Bellows on beating cancer. It would appear her sign truly “#HitHome” for the young NBA superstar.
Bellows responded by screen-capturing Lillard's tweet and posting it to Instagram. She expressed her gratitude for the point guard's kind words and called him her "favorite player."
"And this right here is why @damianlillard is my favorite player. What a game and what a night. I am truly grateful. #11daysCancerFree #RipCity #GoBlazers," Bellows wrote.
Bellows describes herself on Instagram and Twitter as a “College student. Coffee addict. Jesus follower. Sports lover” and “Blogger.” The last on her list of roles is “Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma SURVIVOR!!!”
It might be said that Bellows is at a point in her life where things are coming together and corners are being turned. Likewise, the Trail Blazers are dangerously close to doing what many would have believed inconceivable just a year ago. Lillard and company head to Houston on Wednesday with the opportunity to advance from the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2000.
Where they once might have had an excuse—too young, too streaky, too anonymous—the Trail Blazers no longer have a reason not to close the door and advance.
If Bellows can show up to the game, so can Portland.
Rule #71: No excuses. Play like a champion.