Lillard's thriller silences thunder

Record-breaking guard sinks 10 treys, 50pts as the Trail Blazers win first-round series 4-1

PORTLAND • Among his many exploits, Michael Jordan will always be remembered for "The Shot" - his buzzer-beating, series-winning basket as the Chicago Bulls beat the Boston Celtics in Game 5 of their 1989 first-round match-up.

On Tuesday, Damian Lillard entered the scoring conversation with "The Last Word" after capping one of the most clutch displays with one of the greatest shots in National Basketball Association post-season.

The club's record three-point scorer knocked down 10 treys, including a nearly 40-feet buzzer-beater, en route to a 50-point night as the Portland Trail Blazers eliminated the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The 118-115 home win in Game 5 sealed a 4-1 win for their first series victory since 2016.

Lillard's 10 three-pointers were an all-time franchise record, beating Nicolas Batum's nine in 2012. His 50-point post-season high surpassed the 46 set by LaMarcus Aldridge in 2014.

The guard's final basket from beyond the arc was "one of the coldest game-winners ever seen" as he joined Bob Cousy, Bob Pettit, Wilt Chamberlain, Sam Jones, Jordan and Charles Barkley as the only players in league history to record a 50-point game as their teams clinched a play-offs series.

The Thunder, who were paced by 36 points from All-Star forward Paul George, appeared to have forced Game 6 after overturning a nine-point deficit at the end of the third period to open up a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter.


Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers shooting a 37-feet, buzzer-beating, three-pointer to beat
the Oklahoma City Thunder 118-115 and take their NBA play-off series 4-1. It was the first time since
2016 that Portland emerged victorious in the first round of the post-season. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-
PRESSE

But the Blazers fought back, roared on by a raucous Moda Centre crowd, with Lillard levelling the score at 115-115 after a lay-up.

All-Star guard Russell Westbrook, who recorded a triple-double with 29 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists, then fluffed a chance to restore Oklahoma's lead with 18.3 seconds left, setting the scene for the last-gasp heroics.

Asked about his three-pointer despite George pressuring him, Lillard told ESPN: "I didn't want to put it into the referee hands... I was looking at the rim and I was like, this is a comfortable range.

"When I was standing there, I was like, 'I'm gonna shoot it'. (He) was a little bit off of me and (there) was enough space for me just to raise up and shoot it for game."

He also revealed the hosts were fired up by the visitors' overexuberant celebrations after their Game 3 victory.

The 28-year-old, who similarly sent the Houston Rockets packing from the play-offs with a series-ending shot in 2014, added: "There's been a lot of back and forth, a lot of talk and all this stuff. After one win, that was what they decided to do. We were like, OK, we want to win four games, and then there won't be nothing to talk about."

His teammates and peers were equally bowled over by his dead-eyed accuracy from long range; according to tracking website Second Spectrum, he is eight of 12 from 30 feet or more this post-season.

Portland coach Terry Stotts called him "an ultimate competitor", and centre Enes Kanter, who had 13 points and 13 rebounds on the night, hailed him as "No. 1".

NAILED IT

I was looking at the rim and I was like, this is a comfortable range... I was like, 'I'm gonna shoot it'. (There) was enough space for me just to raise up and shoot it for game.

DAMIAN LILLARD, on what went through his mind before his shot.

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James tweeted a watch emoji in reference to Lillard's "Dame Time" nickname, while Utah Jazz guard Ricky Rubio tweeted "a salute to a true hooper".

The Blazers will face either the Denver Nuggets or the San Antonio Spurs in the next round, with the former taking a 3-2 lead in their series after a 108-90 win.

The Toronto Raptors and the Philadelphia 76ers set up a heavyweight Eastern Conference semi-final battle after completing comfortable series wins.

The Sixers sealed a 4-1 victory after routing the Brooklyn Nets 122-100, while the Raptors swept to an emphatic 115-96 dismissal of the Orlando Magic to also take their first-round series in five games.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2019, with the headline 'Lillard's thriller silences thunder'. Print Edition | Subscribe