The score was tied at 115. 12 seconds remaining. First Round of the Western Conference Playoffs. The Portland Trail Blazers lead the Oklahoma City Thunder 3-1.
Damian Lillard called game.
The Blazers point guard dribbled past half court, circling near the logo, prowling for an opening to strike. OKC forward Paul George crouched arms-wide in a defensive stance. He gave Lillard a couple feet of space, expecting a drive towards the rim.
Lillard shimmied to his right and launched a 37-footer. Bang.
Game. Series. Rip City.
Damian Lillard’s Game Winner
They don’t call him Logo Lillard without reason. His missiles from the parking lot are a vital part of his repertoire. It’s a necessity to pick him up as soon as he breaks half court. Once he crosses that line, he’s in range. Something you only have to worry about with him and Stephen Curry.
The buzzer-beater and 50-point performance not only sent the Blazers to the Western Conference Semifinals against the Denver Nuggets, but it also dismantled a franchise. That iteration of the Thunder had run its course. Paul George finagled his way to the Los Angeles Clippers. Russell Westbrook was dealt to the Houston Rockets. “Thunder” by Imagine Dragons wasn’t hitting as hard as it used to. Lillard’s shot echoed Michael Jordan’s playoff series-winners that altered the trajectory of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The celebration was galvanizing. The Blazers swarmed the five-time NBA All-Star and the crowd howled. Lillard peered into the camera, gazing a stare of pure confidence and swagger. He knew it was going in the whole time. The 2013 Rookie of the Year was still basking in the aftermath on teammate CJ McCollum’s podcast, Pull Up, two days later.
Paul George called it a “bad shot” in his postgame interview. There is some merit to that. If Lillard misses the game-winning three-pointer, everyone from the broadcast team at TNT to analysts at ESPN criticizes the attempt.
“What was he thinking?”
“You have to drive to the rim there.”
“He could’ve got a much better look.”
It’s a good thing Lillard has ice flowing through his veins and gifted us with one of the coldest shots in NBA history.