LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Damian Lillard launched from a height of 33 feet and could only watch and wait as the ball flew off the rear rim and into the air, given the fate of the game – and his Portland Trail Blazers’ stepped up the game Frantic playoff – hanging in balance.
The hottest player in the NBA bubble has bounce off shooters. Late match 3 gave Lillard 61 points, lifted his career, and put the Blazers a 134-131 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday.
As Lillard enjoyed winning eighth place in the Western Conference rankings over the Memphis Grizzlies with a seed match to kick off, the All-Star scene cameras made the request.
“Respect my f ̵2; ing,” he said over and over again as his teammates and coach came to congratulate their hero.
The race the eight-year veteran is running isn’t just gaining respect for the Portland shooting guard. It also made “Dame” a first-name club with NBA greats Michael, Shaq, Kobe, LeBron and most appropriately, Wilt.
Tuesday’s goal was Lillard’s third match to add 60 points to the season. He joined Wilt Chamberlain as the only players in the tournament history to have three games scoring 60 points or more in one season (Chamberlain had 15 games in 1961-62 and nine games in 1962-63).
“It was the most important game of our lives,” Lillard told TNT in an interview on the pitch after the game. “Great tonight. We said we need a win. We’re going to focus on one game. We have completed this match. And it’s the most important match. We have to finish. it’s right. “
Blazers are 5-2 leading from the start, with Lillard recovering from Saturday’s defeat to the LA Clippers, in which he missed two late free-kicks, with 51 points in a win over Philadelphia 76ers, continued followed by a 61-point effort against Luka Doncic and Mavs. It was the first time in his career that he had a reverse game with 50 points, making him the second lowest player in tournament history, with 6 foot-2, with 50 consecutive nights. Only Allen Iverson (6 feet) was shorter. Tuesday’s performance also lifted Lillard’s total number of games in his career to 11 games scoring 50 points in the regular season, with Iverson ranked eighth on the all-time list.
“First of all, I am very pleased to be working in that type of company. It is an honor,” said Lillard when informed of the Chamberlain Index. “Tonight couldn’t be a better time for that kind of game.”
Lillard’s effort was extremely timely, as his partner, CJ McCollum, was playing with an unbroken fracture in his lower back, as NBC Sports Northwest first reported and confirmed by ESPN.
McCollum had a plus minus point minus -25 in 39 minutes, scoring 8 points in a series of 3 to 14 shots with 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 5 fouls. He took two free throws with 3.9 seconds remaining in allotted time to lift Portland’s lead from one to three, setting up an unfortunate last-second miss from Tim Hardaway Jr. by Mavs as he tries to take the game into extra time.
“He’s a bit passive,” Lillard said of McCollum. “He’s not making excuses or trying to get out. He’s carrying it for the team and there for us.”
Lillard was also part of a key defensive stop, hitting the Mavericks’ Trey Burke for the remaining 4.5 seconds. Mavericks manager Rick Carlisle said Lillard could have missed the referees.
“I haven’t looked at it yet. People with iPads [on the Dallas coaching staff] Carlisle said that was clearly a failure. But great players at the moment, they know how to create that situation. So hey, if it’s a failure, maybe he’ll be punished. I don’t know, but it doesn’t help us in the context of the game. There are a lot of good elements in that play but unfortunately for us. “
Portland will play against the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday in the Blazers seed round final with one simple directive: Win, and they are guaranteed a place in the play-in this weekend, with a spot in the round First the Lakers are under threat.
Blazers manager Terry Stott said: “No one wants to get into this bubble and make it to the knockout stages more than Dame. “And we have one more game to go, but his leadership – obviously, his game speaks for itself – but he is taking the team with him.”
As for Lillard’s backline beauty that ended the game at 130 with 1:29 left, immediately answered 3 by Kristaps Porzingis upon Dallas’s previous possession, Stotts recalls Don Nelson’s foul jump in game 7 of the 1969 final. made an accidental bounce and helped the Boston Celtics beat the Lakers.
“Nellie’s shot didn’t even match Dame’s,” Stotts quipped.
Lillard believes his shot was aided by a little divine intervention.
“I think it’s my cousin, rest in peace, Chef B, I think he let it in for me,” he said.
Brandon “Chef B” Johnson, who had been preparing food for Lillard, McCollum and other Blazers players for years, died suddenly in May.
“He was just the head of a lot of things for me and a lot of things for me,” said Lillard. “He’s my right hand man. Everything I need, basically, he’s done for me, and losing him, I’m so hurt. … I’m just trying to continue what I feel like He wanted me to, and I dealt with it that way.
“Just keep trying to continue on the path I know he was once proud of.”
ESPN’s Tim MacMahon contributed to this report.