The Monday Lineup: Mike Tirico’s “most memorable weekend” PLUS: 13 ESPN moments from the weekend

EDITOR’S NOTE: ESPN’s Mike Tirico called two dramatic NBA Playoff games over the weekend – Friday’s Game 6 buzzer-beater from Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard against the Houston Rockets on ESPN, and Sunday’s Game 7 last-second win by the Brooklyn Nets over the Toronto Raptors on ABC. Here, for Front Row, he shares the story of his – and his co-workers’ – cross-country coverage of the first-round series clinchers.

The two games were especially fun because of the arenas and recent history. Given the lower national profile of both Portland and Toronto, plus what was the stake, the energy in both buildings was incredible. On top of that, it had been 14 and 13 years respectively since either home team won a playoff series, so the intensity was as high as it gets.

The two games played out in different ways. The Blazers were ahead or close throughout, the Raptors trailed for the entire second half. So you could see the late game drama coming in Portland more than Toronto.

At the end of any game, I always look even more closely at where players line up to start the play. At our mid court position it is hard to see action on the near sideline in the corners. So my concern is always losing the basketball from my sight as time runs down.

In Portland, the Rockets called timeout after Portland took the floor, so I was anticipating a different setup and that was the case. Knowing Lillard hit four game-winners, I was guessing the ball was going his way.

In Toronto, Kyle Lowry was going to the basket the entire fourth quarter, so that was an easy one to anticipate.

The eruption in Portland was so genuine and celebratory after the call, the best way to document the moment was to shut up so we Hubie Brown was on color, with Heather Cox doing sideline reporting] did for a bit. In Toronto [with Lisa Salters doing sideline reporting], the deflated crowd naturally pointed the attention back to Paul Pierce and the Nets.

I didn’t know until the Lillard play that it has been over a decade and a half since a series was won at the buzzer. To have it nearly happen twice in 40 hours on different coasts, in different countries makes the weekend incredibly memorable.

The real stars of the weekend were our crew members. Led by [director] Ken Dennis and [producer] Ed Feibischoff, our mostly East Coast-based core crew crisscrossed the continent with connecting flights, border control and no chance to set up in Toronto on Saturday night because of a lacrosse game.

The viewers would never know because, as usual, [ESPN’s production crew] thrived in adverse circumstances.

As one of the last original announcers dating back to the start of our NBA coverage 12 years ago, thanks to the fans, teams and our team, it was my most memorable weekend on the project.

Now, some of what you may have missed over the weekend:

1. More praise for Tirico

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8. NFL Draft week is upon us.

9. ESPN’s coverage of the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Tournament begins next weekend.

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Mike Soltys, Kristen Hudak and Ben Cafardo contributed to this post

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