Who knew back on January 23, 2019, in Portland when Russell Westbrook told Damian Lillard he’d been “busting that ass for years” would come back to haunt him and the Thunder in the playoffs. Lillard clearly kept those words in the back of his mind and last night sent the Thunder packing with a Herculean 50-point performance sealed with a 37-foot dagger.
Lillard came into the first round playoff matchup with OKC with a chip on his shoulder, and it clearly showed. This matchup with the triple-double machine Westbrook was personal. The Thunder came into last night’s game down 3-1 with their backs against the wall, and they played like it. Both Westbrook and Paul George led the charge, and it looked like the Thunder was going to live to fight another day and try to do something only the Cavs have done and come back from that deep hole.
It was a fight from the beginning with Dame Dollar literally having to do most of the heavy lifting for the majority of the night. With C.J. McCollum struggling for most of the game, Lillard had to dig deep to help his team survive the combined efforts of Westbrook and George. Dame put on a clinic scoring 34 of his 50 points outscoring both OKC stars combined in the first half alone playing the games first 36 minutes before taking a breather in the 4th quarter.
When Lillard did sit, the Thunder took advantage of the situation going on a great run and grabbing at the time what looked like an insurmountable 15-point lead. With the energy low, the Blazers and their fans found new life when Jusef Nurkic who suffered a season-ending leg injury showed up on the bench. From that point on you could feel the energy change in the building. Despite getting off to a slow start in the quarter, Lillard got his groove back with some help from McCollum who finished with 17 pts hitting some timely shots and Enes Kanter —despite playing through a separated shoulder—adding 13 pts and 13 rebounds.
But it was clearly Dame time, after trading big baskets back and forth the game was finally tied and it came down to one moment that Lillard was clearly ready for. Lillard who revealed that back in OKC his trainer Phil Beckner suggested he take shots from midcourt telling the Trailblazer star “you’re gonna hit one of these,” and he was right. With the game on the line, Lillard saw he had space, pulled up from almost 40-feet and knocked down what is already being considered one of the most magnificent shots in playoff history.
Despite Paul George calling it a “bad shot” during his presser alongside Russell Westbrook, we all know that it wasn’t. It was a gutsy shot that not many will take, but Lillard proved that he is that guy, the legend of Playoff of Dame continues as he and the Trailblazers await the winner of the Denver Nuggets vs. San Antonio Spurs first-round series.