Damian Lillard showed why he is considered to be one of the best players in the NBA. Top 5 for sure. His three-point buzzer-beater from some 38 feet destroyed Oklahoma City Thunder and ended their season tonight.
With the time running down, and Paul George in front of him, Lillard made one of the best ever playoff moves, bringing a 118-115 win to his team, which eliminated Thunder and Russell Westbrook in five games. This was his answer to all the trash talking Westbrook, and other OKC players poured on him in Chesapeake Energy Arena a few days ago. He slowly waived towards the bench full of shocked Thunder players before his teammates reached and made a pile of bodies around him.
Just to add, he scored 50 points, too.
“Damian’s performance was probably the best performance I’ve seen in person,” said Portland’s coach Terry Stotts at the press conference.
Lillard already had 34 at the break, added 7 boards and 6 assists along with 3 steals. He was 10 of 18 from behind the arc, and played 45 minutes. It couldn’t be better than that. Plus, he got the game with a dagger.
Whether was this because he saw his injured teammate Jusuf Nurkic who appeared at Moda Center for the first time since his terrible injury, or something else, Dame’s performance will remembered forever.
Throughout the majority of the game, OKC had the control of the match, and the fact that they had a lead 37:45 minutes of the game, while on the other side Blazers were up 8:37, tells a lot.
For one brief moment in the third period, Portland made a 13-4 which pulled them away to 84-75, and that was the first noticeable lead of the home team, after trailing almost the entire first half.
But as soon as the final period started, the guests made a huge push, creating a 15-2 run. It ended with Dennis Schroeder’s three-pointer, and with 7:45 left, the home team was 15 points behind, 105-90.
Mo Harkless played a huge role in the comeback with 6 points and excellent defense.
“Mo hit two big free throws,” Lillard said during the on-court interview, highlighting the moment when Harkless brought the Trail Blazers to only two points away from the rival, 113-11.
The defensive effort in Portland’s game was the key factor which allowed them to get closer and to win this contest. The Thunder couldn’t score for more than 3:15, right until Paul George scored a jumper with 39.4 seconds to go and lift his team to 115-113.
Lillard responded and tied the game, while on the other side, Westbrook missed a go-ahead layup. The rest was history.
“Before you make your breakthrough the adversity is going to hit,” Lillard spoke about the fact that his team had a double-digit deficit in the several minutes before the end. “We knew it… I knew eventually, we was going to have to fight through something to come out big.”
Lillard spoke about future challenges, saying that unlike the previous times when they reached the second stage, this team has a different mindset. Back then, they were considered underdogs, and first-round wins were thought to be a big success, which was enough for them. That is not the case now.
“I think that the last two times we advanced, I think that we kinda were satisfied for getting out of the first series. Where we are now, we are not ready to go home.”
The Trail Blazers are waiting for the better from the Denver vs San Antonio matchup which is currently very interesting. Last night the Nuggets defeated Spurs in Colorado with 108-90, and they will have a chance to close the series already this Thursday in San Antonio as they lead 3-2.
This will give a few days of rest to the Blazers and a chance to recharge their batteries and get ready for what might be the biggest series of their careers. Right now, the team is in good shape, especially at home where they have 10 straight victories.