NBA: Lillard buzzer-beater seals Blazers thriller to knock out Thunder; Sixers and Raptors also through

Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers drives to the basket during the second half of Game Five of the Western Conference quarterfinals during the 2019 NBA Playoffs at Moda Center in Portland, Oregon, on April 23, 2019.
Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers drives to the basket during the second half of Game Five of the Western Conference quarterfinals during the 2019 NBA Playoffs at Moda Center in Portland, Oregon, on April 23, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Damian Lillard sank a three-pointer on the buzzer to cap a 50-point display as the Portland Trail Blazers completed a late fightback to send Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder crashing out of the National Basketball Association play-offs on Tuesday (April 23).

Needing a win to keep the best-of-seven series alive, Oklahoma City appeared to be on their way to forcing 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.

But a sensational burst of scoring hauled the Blazers back within striking distance as their home fans at the Moda Centre roared them on.

Lillard levelled the score at 115-115 with a driving lay-up and when Westbrook subsequently fluffed a chance to restore Oklahoma City's lead with 18.3 seconds left, Portland ace Lillard was left with a chance to grab the win.

The 28-year-old point guard took his time, eating up the final few seconds before sinking a three-pointer from long-range to seal a 118-115 win and a 4-1 series victory.

"Sometimes it's your turn to go through something, and when you keep fighting, and keep working through it, and stay together, there's a reward waiting for you," Lillard said after the win.

Earlier, he had kept Portland in contention almost single-handedly, playing all 24 minutes of the first half and knocking down 12 of 18 shot attempts to score 34 points by the break.

His first-half exploits appeared to have caught up with him as the Blazers flagged in the third period.

But the Portland talisman led a mesmerising late rally to finish with 50 points, seven rebounds and six assists.

Maurice Harkness added 17 points, Enes Kanter added 13 and C.J. McCollum finished with 17.

It was a disappointing end to the season for Westbrook, who added a triple double comprising 29 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists.

Paul George led the Thunder scoring with 36 points, adding nine rebounds and three assists in a losing effort.

Lillard, meanwhile, revealed that Portland had been motivated by Oklahoma City's exuberant celebrations after their win in Game 3.

"They were out there doing all these celebrations," he said. "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."

Portland will face either Denver or San Antonio in the next round. The Nuggets took a 3-2 lead in their series after a 108-90 win earlier on Tuesday.

Sixers, Raptors romp

In the Eastern Conference, the Toronto Raptors and the Philadelphia 76ers set up a heavyweight play-off battle after completing comfortable series victories.

The Sixers sealed a 4-1 series win after routing the Brooklyn Nets 122-100, while the Raptors swept to an emphatic 115-96 dismissal of the Orlando Magic to also seal their series 4-1.

Joel Embiid led the Sixers with 23 points at Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Centre.

The Sixers were always in control after surging into a 17-point lead at the end of the first quarter.

They led 60-31 at half time as Brooklyn's challenge effectively collapsed.

Embiid was again immense for Philadelphia, hauling in 13 rebounds to go with his points tally.

Five other Philadelphia players made double figures, with Ben Simmons scoring 13 points and Tobias Harris 12. J.J. Redick and James Ennis III added 11 apiece. Jonathon Simmons finished with 10 from the bench.

Embiid believes the Sixers have the talent to mount a championship-winning play-off campaign.

"We think we can win it all," he said. "Obviously, it's going to take a lot. You've got some great teams in the league, we're about to play one of them," the Cameroon international added.

"We just gotta take it one game at a time but we understand that we got all the talent we need, especially to win it all."