Lillard becomes one for the ages

By Fran Blinebury, NBA.com


VIDEO: Damian Lillard joins Arena Link to discuss the big shot

PORTLAND, Ore. — Teammate Thomas Robinson says you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. This was just a start for the kid.

If that’s the case, Damian Lillard‘s next trick will likely be a re-creation of that old McDonald’s commercial with Larry Bird and Michael Jordan: “Over the freeway, through the window, off the scoreboard…”

It wasn’t just a dagger through the heart of the Rockets. It was the kind of shot that defines a career, creates a legend and trails you like a permanent ray of sunshine long after the sneakers and jersey come off and the hair has turned gray.

The official play-by-play sheet called it a “25-foot, 3-point jump shot.”

And Moby Dick was just another whale.

“I’ve seen him do that kind stuff, make shots like that for the past two years,” said Wes Matthews. “From the first day you saw him out on the practice court, you could tell from the way he carried himself. He’s just, well, different.”

It’s the difference that allows a neurosurgeon to poke around inside somebody’s brain with with the sheer confidence, maybe the utter arrogance, that he just won’t slip with the scalpel.

It’s the difference that diamond cutter has when he knows that he won’t turn that big, expensive bauble into cheap rock with a bad tap on the chisel.

“I mean, I got a pretty good look,” said the 23 year old who might as well be an ageless Yoda doing tricks with a light saber. “Once I saw it on line, I said that’s got a chance. It went in, but it did feel good when it left my hands.”

It came after Chandler Parson‘s out-of-the-blue put-back had given the Rockets a 98-96 lead with 0.9 seconds left.

“The first thing I did when I saw Parson’s shot go in was look at the clock,” Lillard said. “I saw there was time. I knew we would have a shot. I just didn’t know what kind.”

It was the kind of shot that will replayed on the giant video screen at the Moda Center or whatever new-fangled arena comes next for as long as they play basketball in Portland. The biggest last-second shot in Blazers’ history.

It came fittingly on a night when the franchise honored the legendary coach Jack Ramsay, who led the Blazers to their only NBA championship in 1977 and died on Monday.

Rip City — R.I.P. City — indeed.

Up on the screen, there was grainy old color film of Dr. Jack in his wild ’70s disco era plaid pants and wide collars jumping for joy as his share-the-ball Blazers clinched the title.

Down there on the court, just an hour or so later, there were the linear descendants of those Blazers — who move without the ball, do all the little things and play unselfishly — leaping into each other’s arm.

“When he made the shot, I didn’t let him go for the next three minutes,” said LaMarcus Aldridge, the workhorse who carried the Blazers, averaging 29.8 points in the series.

It was not just a Portland moment, but an NBA moment, the kind that should be frozen in Jurassic amber.

Lillard’s was the first buzzer-beating shot to clinch a playoff series since John Stockton did it to the Rockets’ ancestors in the 1997 Western Conference finals.

Put it a gold frame and hang it behind a velvet rope with:

Ralph Sampson‘s rim-rattling prayer that beat the Lakers and sent the Rockets to the 1986 Western Conference Finals.

Garfield Heard‘s heave for the Suns that forced triple overtime at Boston Garden In the 1976 Finals.

Derek Fisher‘s running miracle with 0.4 seconds in Game 5 of the 2004 Western Conference finals that beat the Spurs.

– And yes, even Michael Jordan‘s hanging, leaning, drifting to the side jumper over a helpless Craig Ehlo in the Bulls’ Game 5 clincher of the first round in 1989.

That last one started a legend. To hear the Blazers tell it, their second-year guard is already writing the first few chapters of his own.

“Oh, he’s doing things all the time in practice and all season long in games that you just don’t expect and maybe don’t think are possible,” said center Robin Lopez.

“I’ve been around the NBA for 10 years and played a lot of games with a lot of players and seen a lot of things,” said guard Mo Williams. “I’ve seen shots, yeah. Have I seen a shot like that? Noooooo.”

It ended a series that had three overtime games, only one margin of victory that was by more than single figures. The only double digit lead of the night lasted just 16 seconds. The biggest lead of the second half by either team was four. The cumulative score of the entire series had the Rockets ahead by two points.

Just like they led by two with 0.9 seconds left and when Lillard zipped away from the defender Parson and came zooming wide open right toward the inbounding Nicolas Batum.

“I clapped my hands at Nico,” Lillard said. “He threw it to me and I turned. The rim was right there.”

And Lillard let it fly.

If we ain’t seen nothing yet, that next chapter will be a doozy.

40 Comments

  1. I AM PATRICK THE FLAME says:

    WOAH! WHAT A SHOT

  2. Sherpa says:

    I feel that the Rockets were the toughest match-up for the Blazers all season, there is something special about this team, closing out a series in such legendary fashion! GO BLAZERS!!!!

  3. Nicolo Quimbo says:

    Indeed, Damian Lillard ‘is different’ I’m a fan, but since this reminds me of a legend-making play, how quickly we forget Rajon Rondo’s exploits in the NBA playoffs. How time flies. Once you get injured, it will be different. Oh, Rose too. Almost everybody put Lillard as the ‘breakout’ star in this years playoffs – and this is it!

  4. jdub455 says:

    This kid is on the way in becoming one of the best PGs in years to come… a HOF caliber player…

  5. okc2014 says:

    I’m still reeling in shock that Houston loss that series and is now on vacation. Dwight Howard left LA to be in the same spot…. Portland does have an excellent chance of beating Dallas; will see about San Antonio. This is getting to be so much fun.

  6. Balthazar says:

    LaMarcus started it, Damian Finished
    They have a lot of potential

  7. MAblazers says:

    It was a team effort and Lillard made everyone’s effort count. Hes the best point guard. no comparison.

  8. Scott Hayes says:

    I’ve been a blazer fan for thirty five long years. I’ve been to exactly one playoff game. And that was last nights game. Ben golliver of Sports Illustrated said that was the best basketball crowd he’s ever seen. I absolutely should have bought a lottery ticket on the way to the game.

  9. Jeff says:

    14yrs of Playoff 2nd-round drought coalesced into Lillard’s sprortsgasmic game-winner w/ 0.9 seconds left! But… let’s not forget, this was a team effort. Aldridge is the engine driving this car. Lopez gets up in your grill. We$ drains you when needed. Batum is the 176-tool set that rolls out and picks his spots, and Lillard . . . IS . . . C L U T C H !!!! Portland went berserk! I was @ a bar high-5′ing strangers and whooping for a couple hours. Cars were honking in the streets and people were yelling and celebrating until 3am. “Be insane. Be crazy. Be who you are. Be RIP CITY!” -Batum

  10. Phil says:

    Lillard has a work ethic, ethos, and sense of determination unparalleled to players of his age in the league and around the world. You can tell by his attitude in off the court media coverage how determined he really has and how long he has been that determined. The face he has when he has drafted clearly exemplifies the achievement of a dream he had long coveted and worked for but also the acceptance of a challenging opportunity he wasn’t going to take lightly; even the moment he got drafted he was changing his attitude to be ready and ahead of his counterparts in the league. Future Hall of Famer; I hope he plays out his entire career out with the Blazers. He is probably going to go down as one of the closest to get to Kobe style status in terms of a player’s connection with a team.

  11. Anthony Johnson says:

    Lets Go Blazers!! Dont be satisfied with first rd win. Lets go for it all!!

  12. Wade says:

    But he is Addidas. last time addidas had a star, torn ACL. haha :)

  13. Hafsa says:

    WOW!!!! I’m getting a lillard jersey NOW.

  14. lol says:

    blazers always beat spurs with ease dallas is not as good as Portland and OKC with Blazers are 2-2 so Blazers still have the better chance

  15. ron says:

    Blazers beat the rockets AND the refs multiple times this series. These guys have heart.

  16. Esco01 says:

    Let’s not forget that either the Mavs or the Spurs have a tough time playing the Blazers, as was seen during the regular season. Especially the Spurs over the last few years. I know that this is the Playoffs and the game is more intense, but to say that the Blazers will flat out lose is IMO a little premature. I don’t want to make any predictions but I think the Blazers do have a chance beating either team.

  17. blazerjerm says:

    Dame doesn’t only wear 0 for Oakland, Ogden, Oregon.. he wears it cause he shines best when the shots up and the clock reads 0.0

  18. dwight coward says:

    The blazers have beat every top 8 western conference team, dont count them out..

  19. lakerslakerslakers says:

    yes mr. howard, you left the lakers to make another 1st round exit.

    • boots says:

      can’t blame howard for this. He held up his end of the bargain and played well every night. This is because of harden collapsing in all but game 6. considering how close every single game was, if harden hadn’t collapsed rockets would have won this series.

    • skrutz says:

      He did, but it wasnt sad and painful like the Lakers exit. Watching that was just waiting for it to be over.

  20. betweenthelines says:

    #LillardTime

  21. Bryan says:

    Very happy for Lillard and the Blazers.

    Good to see the Blazers draft pick work out for them for a change, and even better for Lillard to show all those people who thought he wouldn’t make it in the NBA just because he played for Weber State and not one of the big schools.

  22. Jay Rickson says:

    Ok let’s not over exaggerate this “one for the ages”, “one that defines a career”. Great shot, but the blazers aren’t going any further in the playoffs and it’s not like the series was 3-3

    • MIke Spence says:

      The Blazers have been making people a lot smarter then you eat their words all season…

    • ron says:

      Whatever dude, obviously you are clueless…

      • Dan S. says:

        Ahh shucks. I think I’m feeling a little pitty for poor, bitter, “hasn’t got a clue” Jay. Hang in there buddy…..sleep on it, and you’ll feel better tomorrow. GO BLAZERS!!

    • Adam says:

      Whoa…slow down there Jay…perhaps you live in a time zone where you haven’t had much of an opportunity to see what Portland can do. They took 2 games right away in Houston with Aldridge scoring 40+ each night. Houston realized that they were actually in the playoffs and woke up. They took one from Portland in their house but that was it my friend. Portland won it in six and then enjoyed several days off while the Spurs had to play 7 games to beat Dallas. The Spurs get one day off before facing Portland. Don’t be so quick to say that Portland is done, they’ve more than demonstrated that they can handle the Spurs.

  23. Fefe (Nets) says:

    Crazy shot and this guy Lillard has shown to us NBA fans that he has a killer instinct, from Day 1 of his NBA career.
    I was for the Blazers & I am sure that they’ll give big trouble to either the Mavs or the Spurs (i think that the Spurs will advance).

  24. elcapitan1019 says:

    Second best shot I’ve ever seen. The tops for me was Derek Fisher’s shot against the Spurs, with 0.4 seconds left. Both shots for the ages……

  25. Yeah Uh huh says:

    No disrespect to either team. Both played horrid defense. An issue the Rockets definitely need to address. It’s been thier achilles all season. Should they play any of the remaining teams Portland will not get past their next opponent. The remaining teams especially OKC, Memphis and San Antonio will take the series in 4 to 5 mock my words.

    • *Sigh* says:

      I will mock your words. Portland’s been hearing that all year long and they keep proving people wrong. Yeah, their defense needs some work, but to count them out already is just a repetition of this entire year. All the other teams in the West are good, but if you’ve been following the games at all, you’d see that they’re all beatable and all have their flaws. Everyone was picking Houston in 5…maybe 6. I’ll leave it at that.

      • Jay rickson says:

        Let’s not forget that the other teams in the west have really good defense.

      • Dan S. says:

        MOCK MY WORDS! Good one…I would have, but you’ve done such a good job at it yourself. Hey Jay…what are you doing here? Stick to your own post. Stop bandwagoning on other Blazer hater’s posts.

    • Consider your words Mocked. says:

      Yeah sure horrid defense was played on both ends, but when you have the two top scoring teams in the NBA in Houston @112+ ppg and Portland @ 111.7 ppg, defense doesn’t always factor into *scoring more points than the other team* no matter how it’s done, some teams with great defense, others with better offense. HOWEVER, let us not forget Mon. Dec 2nd where the (at the time) NBA’s top team and notoriously great defensive team Indiana came into Portland as the heavy favorite because “the Pacers defense will slow down Portland’s jump shooting offense, and the Blazers’ lack of defense will hand Indiana the victory.” Portland won 106-102. And the very next game, went on to beat OKC.

      So go ahead and count us out, again. And again be prepared to watch this team play with heart and determination and togetherness and weather or not we win this series. We will make a statement and words will be eaten. So go ahead and keep doubting this team we play better that way.

      GO BLAZERS!!

  26. Game Time says:

    Amazing shot! Lillard was just fearless in taking.

  27. Paul&Jack says:

    My 3 favorite players:
    1- Kobe
    2- Kobe
    3- Damian Lillard

  28. Blog-So-Hard-2014 says:

    He got game