Damian Lillard produced one of the most memorable games of the 2018-19 NBA season on Tuesday, scoring 50 points, capped off with a 37-foot, buzzer-beating three-pointer to eliminate the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Despite holding a 3-1 series lead, the Blazers knew how important Tuesday’s game was. Lose Game 5, and they would have to go back to Oklahoma City for Game 6, then face the possibility of playing a winner-takes-all Game 7.
With that in mind, Lillard decided on Monday that he was going to eliminate the Thunder. Yahoo’s Chris Haynes visited Lillard’s house on Monday and reported that Lillard made a bold declaration. From Haynes:
“For several minutes, the Portland Trail Blazers’ star guard sat quietly on his sofa, chowing down on fried catfish, red beans and rice, and broccoli. And then suddenly, he spoke: ‘I’m getting rid of these motherf—ers tomorrow.'”
Lillard stuck to his word. Throughout Game 5, Lillard was on-target from three, hitting an array of difficult, deep threes off the dribble.
And, of course, the shot that will go down in NBA history as an iconic moment.
Lillard and the Blazers’ series win is a big redemption following an embarrassing sweep in the first round last season.
When the Blazers lost to the lower-seeded New Orleans Pelicans last season, some called for them to break up the team. Instead, the Blazers kept their team together, improved by four wins to go 53-29, and are now in the second round of the playoffs. They’ll play the winner of the Denver Nuggets-San Antonio Spurs series in the semifinals, with a chance to advance to the Western Conference Finals.
Lillard told Haynes he wanted the Thunder because they posed a big challenge for the Blazers.
“Coming off how we were swept last year by New Orleans, I wanted to face a team and an opponent that people thought we couldn’t beat,” Lillard said. “I wanted to prove something from the jump. We needed a matchup that would potentially bring out the best of us. There were no excuses. We had every reason to be up for this.”
With Lillard playing the way he is, averaging 33 points on 48% three-point shooting in the postseason, nobody will look forward to playing the Blazers.