Damian Lillard opened Tuesday night’s Game 5 with a 19-point first quarter, keeping the Blazers close while Oklahoma City made everything thrown even vaguely in the direction of the basket. Lillard finished the first half with 34 points. He opened the second half with an utterly preposterous 30-foot step-back three. And he buried the Thunder at the final buzzer with one of the most irrational and hysterically rude shots you will ever see. Tuesday night was Lillard at his most psychotic, and that’s really saying something.
The right thing to do is to work backward from the game-winner, because it is truly the work of an insane genius:
Many basketball games have been won on buzzer-beaters from the center court logo, but I am having a hard time thinking of another logo buzzer-beater that was a goddamn step-back. It takes a mad-dog psycho killer to even go to a step-back from the logo when the final possession left plenty of time to work closer to the basket. There are as many as three basketball players on earth for whom a step-back from that distance would be anything better than Billy Hoyle’s hook-shot. Look at this shit:
Lillard was so stone cold in that moment of spectacular triumph that he had the presence of mind to wave goodbye to the Thunder, whose season he’d just personally flushed down the toilet:
Apart from the stakes of the moment, it was also the final bucket of a 50-point night for Lillard, a performance that immediately becomes the signature one of his fantastic NBA career:
Part of what made this so thrilling was how much juice Lillard seemed to get from his rivalry with Thunder counterpart Russell Westbrook, with whom he seems to share some genuine mutual animosity. The Blazers will face the winner of the Nuggets-Spurs series in the second round—I don’t know if anyone on either of those teams has earned Lillard’s enmity the way Westbrook has, but NOW IS NOT THE TIME. The man is out for blood.