Damian Lillard pulled up from 37 feet and waved goodbye to the Oklahoma City Thunder. We all saw it. We all lost our minds, and perhaps in a fit of jubilation (or despair, depending on where you live) did or said something we regret this morning. Nobody handled the aftermath of one of the greatest shots in playoff history quite as poorly as Paul George:
Once Lillard’s shot went in, it shouldn’t have been possible for the Thunder to find any way to inflict more embarrassment upon themselves. They had just been spectacularly eliminated from the playoffs by a player they had spent a good chunk of the regular season and all of Game 3 personally antagonizing. When an intimidation campaign backfires in such hilarious fashion, the last thing any of the freshly owned should be doing is raising a protesting finger and saying, “Well, actually, we had him right where we wanted him!”
Also, George isn’t even correct. According to NBA.com statistics, Lillard shot 4-of-4 in the series on shots that were 30-34 feet from the basket. He made 48 percent of all his shots that were more than 24 feet away, and in Game 5 alone he made three shots from beyond 30 feet, including the incredible buzzer-beater. Such absurd accuracy from long-distance wasn’t specific to this series, either. During the regular season, Lillard shot 34 percent on shots between 30-34 feet, which is what a good deal of professional NBA players would be happy to shoot with their toes on the line.
An interesting but ultimately useless thought experiment is to imagine what NBA fans would make of Lillard if Steph Curry had never come along to so emphatically plant his flag in the outer reaches of NBA shotmaking. No player comes as close to matching Curry’s range or freakish combination of shooting ability and confidence, but to even make such a comparison unfairly cheapens what Lillard is capable of. K2 may not be quite as tall as Everest, but it’s still pretty goddamn tall, you know?
Today, though, Lillard gets to be up in the clouds all by himself. The first stage of the NBA playoffs have belonged to him and him alone, and he is now the author of one of the greatest single postseason shots anyone will ever see. This moment probably won’t last forever—Curry and James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo are on the horizon—but Lillard seems ready to enjoy it for however long it lasts.