In the NBA‘s Western Conference Playoffs, the 6th seed Portland Trail Blazers were defeated by the 3rd seed, the Denver Nuggets in double-overtime Tuesday night, 140-147. Damian Lillard poured in 55 points, 10 assists, and 6 rebounds on 17-24 shooting (12-17 3PT), while Nikola Jokic went for 38 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists.
The rest of the Trail Blazers failed to back up their superstar leader, combining to shoot 38% on field goals and 29% from long range. This loss puts the Nuggets ahead 3-2 in the series, with game six scheduled to take place in Portland.
Loss aside, Damian Lillard had one of the most incredible individual performances in playoff history, becoming the first player to ever have 55 points, 10 assists, and 10 made three-pointers in the same game. This was also the first time that a 55 and 10 game was produced in the playoffs, and Lillard’s 12 made threes were a playoff record.
Lillard also marked the game with his usual brand of immaculate clutch scoring, confirming that the final minutes of a close ballgame truly is “Dame Time.” The Blazers’ star hit a ridiculous step-back three to tie the game at 121 with 3.7 seconds left in regulation, yet would find a way to one-up himself in overtime.
Trailing 123-132 in OT and with the game starting to slip away, Lillard would score twelve straight points for his team to force an additional five minutes of action: he started with an and-one layup that he converted at the line, then sank three straight triples over the final minute of the game, the last of which knotted the affair at 135 with 6.6 seconds on the clock.
Lillard had gotten so hot that the Nuggets were double-teaming him as soon as he crossed half court, yet he still found ways to get his shot off. If Steph Curry is the greatest shooter that the game has ever seen, Lillard has to be the most spectacular and thrilling shooter of all time.
Dame kicked off 2OT with a layup and then made his twelfth three, setting the playoff record, but could do nothing but watch as his teammates’ miscues and misfires threw the game and a sensational performance away. Lillard was noticeably dejected in the postgame press conference, and his loyalty to Portland could seriously be put to the test if the Nuggets win the next game.
Lillard’s historic feat among the NBA’s greats
Lillard’s incredible display will be remembered as a historic playoff performance and one of the best in modern times, joining LeBron James’ 51-point, eight-rebound eight-assist night in game one of the 2018 NBA Finals and Allen Iverson’s 48 points, six assists, and five steals against the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2001 NBA Finals. When pressed for an answer, it is hard to say that Dame’s is not the best due to the degree of difficulty of the shots that he was taking and making at over a 70% clip.
The best argument against Lillard for the most memorable playoff performance post-2000 is that Iverson managed to win his matchup, a fact that neither LeBron nor Lillard can claim for their historic nights. The 76ers were clear underdogs against the Lakers, and although Shaquille O’Neal dominated the interior for 44 points and 20 rebounds, the rest of LA was relatively uninspiring on the day, partially thanks to Iverson’s relentless effort on both ends of the court.
Regardless of a personal hierarchy of these moments, Lillard’s performance last night belongs in the book of all-time playoff basketball history. “Dame Dolla” is now averaging 35.6 points and 9.6 assists through five games of the playoffs and will have a chance to seek revenge against the Nuggets in an elimination game Thursday night, where the Trail Blazers are currently listed as five-point favorites.
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