You seriously have to be joking with what Damian Lillard just did. This man just went for 50 and banged a 40-footer at the buzzer to eliminate the Thunder and I have no idea what I just saw. I mean, the dude got the ball with 15 seconds left and he CHOSE to bleed the clock down for a 40-footer! A side-step, no less!
I mean come on! I am dying at what an ill-advised shot that is in that situation. You always hear people talking about guys settling for jumpers at the end of games rather than attacking the basket, but this man didn’t just settle for a jumper — he straight-up hunted a full-on heave. And he banged it! Then waved goodbye to the Thunder! There just aren’t words for moments like this. It was a mesmerizing shot to punctuate a mesmerizing performance by an absolutely mesmerizing player.
Earlier this season I spent some time talking to Blazers coach Terry Stotts while they were in Miami, and we got to discussing all these deep 3s guys are taking in the league now, how it’s no longer a desperation shot but one guys actually seek out.
“Yeah, but realistically there are only a handful of players in the league you actually worry about taking that shot,” Stotts told CBS Sports. “Fortunately, we have one of the best in Damian.”
Uh,oneof the best?
What Lillard just did to the Thunder will go down as one of the greatest playoff performances in NBA history. That is not an opinion. That is fact. Carve it into stone and put it the Library of Congress. There is only one other player capable of that kind of performance. You know his name. Steph Curry. He’s the only point guard in the same breath as Lillard at this minute.
Now listen, I’m not out here trying to get all crazy and start proclaiming Lillard to be the equal of Steph Curry, but he ain’t far off. In fact, you want to know exactly what Lillard is? He’s Curry under Mark Jackson, back when he had to create shots — and impossible shots at that — out of nothing on a nightly basis, and he turned that burden into the greatest show in basketball. That is Lillard right now. The greatest show in basketball. When he’s playing, you better get to a TV and lock your doors, because this dude is coming to burn the house down. I mean for heaven’s sake, look at some of these shots:
Look, I’ve been on the Lillard train for years. Back when people were trying to say he didn’t step up in the playoffs and the Blazers were never a championship threat (as if that had anything to do with him). I think he’s the second-best point guard in the league next to Curry and one of the most clutch players I’ve ever seen, but even I can’t believe the level he took himself to in this series. He was a star long ago, but this still felt like his birth. And the official death of all his naysayers.
And, yes, there were naysayers. Or at least people just not really paying attention to just how great this guy has been for years. Heck, the NBA players — you know, the guys who supposedly “really know the game” — voted Derrick Rose ahead of Lillard on the All-Star ballot this year.It was an absolute slap in the face, the players’ love for Rose and his story notwithstanding. But Lillard is getting the last laugh. Westbrook tried to talk junk to him all series and got absolutely housed in every possible way.
I wrote about Westbrook’s inadequaciesafter Game 4, and some of them showed up again in Game 5. He is a bad shooter who takes bad shots. But on this night, Westbrook actually played a pretty good floor game and even answered a few — a FEW — of Lillard’s shots. Paul George was terrific with 36 points on 14-of-20 shooting. Dennis Schroder was great, as was Jerami Grant. Westbrook finished with another triple-double: 29 points, 14 assists and 11 boards, though he shot just 11-of-31. OKC played about as well as it is capable of playing. Lillard and the Blazers were, and are, simply better.
You ready for Lillard’s line? Fifty points on 33 shots, including 10-for-18 from 3. Yes, he took two more shots than Westbrook and outscored him by 21 points. Dame played 45 minutes. He chipped in seven rebounds, six assists and three steals for the fine print. I will never forget this game. Nobody who saw it will. I can’t imagine what it was like inside the Moda Center. I literally fell on the floor in my house and started rolling around laughing when he hit that shot. It was all I could do to keep from waking up my wife and four-year-old daughter, who perhaps will one day ask me why I love basketball so much. I’ll tell her it’s because of guys like Damian Lillard and nights like this. I can’t believe what I just saw. And I don’t really know what else to say.