We've seen a fair amount of big-time rejections this NBA season — Timofey Mozgov's huge erasure of Rudy Gay, Victor Oladipo's at-the-peak "reverse poster" on Damian Lillard, Greg Monroe's violent shutdown of rookie Cody Zeller, Chris Andersen taking "Birdman"-appropriate flight to deny a Blake Griffin alley-oop and Jermaine O'Neal's game-saving stonewall of a Chandler Parsons dunk spring to mind. But in terms of sheer force, severity and awesomeness, I'm not sure we've seen a better swat this season than the one turned in Sunday night by Portland Trail Blazers reserve big man Thomas Robinson to annihilate a fast-break dunk by noted leak-out artist Corey Brewer of the Minnesota Timberwolves:
Not only did Robinson's rejection — a play combining the speed to catch up with and overtake Brewer in the open court, the springs to meet him in the air, the timing to snare Corey at the top of his jump and the strength to send the dunk try flying back in his face — prevent a breakaway dunk, but it also led to a hiccup-quick two points the other way, stylishly delivered in the form of a Wesley Matthews alley-oop to Will Barton for what the play-by-play somewhat uncharitably describes as a layup from one foot away. (Yes, he got a technical foul for celebrating it, but after watching and rewatching the block, I find it difficult to blame him too much.)
Beyond that, it capped a 16-3 run spanning the third and fourth quarters that helped Portland turn a game that the Wolves had led by as many as 18 points in the first half into a contest the Blazers would win going away, 108-97, improving Portland's record to 2-1 since losing All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge to a left groin strain.
A fair share of the credit for the Blazers' come-from-behind Sunday victory belongs to Robinson, whose career arc quickly went from "marked for greatness" after the Sacramento Kings chose him out of Kansas with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft to "lost in the shuffle" after a midseason trade to the Houston Rockets and an offseason trade to Portland gave him three different stamps on his NBA passport in a calendar year. With injuries to Aldridge, Joel Freeland and Meyers Leonard slashing Portland's frontcourt depth, Terry Stotts has turned to Robinson for minutes over the past three games, and while he was up (10 points, nine rebounds in 22 1/2 minutes in a loss to the San Antonio Spurs) and down (two points, three rebounds in 11 minutes in a win over the Utah Jazz) in his first two outings, the 22-year-old big man turned in arguably the best performance of his professional career against the Timberwolves, scoring 14 points, grabbing a career-high 18 rebounds, dishing two assists and blocking two shots in 33 1/2 minutes.
He was three points shy of a double-double in the second half alone, with his athleticism and relentlessness on the glass helping shake Portland from its first-half doldrums, and his physicality on defense helping stymy All-Star counterpart Kevin Love. While the Minnesota power forward scored 14 of his Wolves-high 31 points after intermission, Love — who ranks fourth in the NBA in total rebounds and second in rebounds per game — pulled down just two caroms in the second half, while Robinson snared 10. Love also went 6 for 16 from the floor after making his first five shots, thanks in part to having to deal with the Blazers' 6-foot-9, 240-pound bruiser.
The Blazers fed off Robinson's electric output, earning the sophomore strong praise from Portland's All-Star point guard, according to Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: “We were joking when we got back in the locker room, called him Thomas Aldridge,” Damian Lillard said of Robinson. “He was huge.”
And nowhere did he loom larger than on Brewer's fateful fourth-quarter foray into the paint. More from Freeman:
“T. Rob got the big block, Wes found me for the dunk, and it was just pandemonium,” Barton said. “Part of a big run that we needed, and it kind of sparked us to put them away.” [...]
“I just knew it was a timing thing,” Robinson said of his block. “I saw him on the break, I sized him up, and I went to go get it. I don’t know how to explain it. Adrenaline shot through me, I was hype, probably said a bunch of stuff. I don’t remember what I said.”
That might be for the best; it was probably the kind of thing that Robinson doesn't want to repeat too much, lest he find himself running afoul of the refs once again. Everything that led up to it, though — the hustle plays, the unleashed athleticism, the ferocity and the skill — well, Blazers fans sure would love to see Robinson repeat all that on a nightly basis. (Brewer, we're guessing, wouldn't.)
If the clip above isn't rocking for you, feel free to check it out elsewhere, thanks to our friends at the NBA.
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