Damian Lillard waved bye bye to the Thunder last night in an immediate classic after he air-mailed his final dagger en route to 50 points, booking the Blazers a second-round matchup. This was his game, his series, his time. There are few players in the league with his skillset, fewer still are blessed with his temperament. He's ice cold in the eyes of his opponents, and yet he's warm, enduring and humble to the Rip City fans who love him. Hell, if you like basketball, you gotta like Dame. For the sake of appreciation, just look at where he shot that game winner from.
Dame's first half was flame-throwing; he kept the Blazers afloat while CJ dealt with foul trouble. Lillard's shot-making is artful and relentless. He wants it. I thought Curry and Collins brought a lot of toughness and intangibles to the table in the first half. Curry also played well late in the game as both teams stayed "small". Mo Harkless, mo problems was at it again, bringing all the little things to the game that coaches love—his willingness to do what is asked of him. He and Aminu play the role of role-players perfectly, no easy task in the ego-driven NBA world. Regardless of Dame's point total before halftime, it was his sense of timing and commitment to team that stood out alongside his heroic shot making. He kept his team in the game. And therein lies the point, his team. The Trailblazers are a team; they trust each other and exude togetherness. He remains calm and thus the team operates under a sense of calm. Even after he hit a 40-footer for not only the game, but the series, there he is, calm, waving bye bye to the team that lives within the volcano that is Russ.
If Damian's first half didn't impress quite enough, how bout his first shot of the third, another deep-ass three that found the bottom of the net. "He's having a night," a direct quote from my most trusted game watching partner. I replied, "F*ck'n daggers." As the game unfolded with multiple momentum swinging runs, there was Dame trusting his team. His kick out to Chief in the corner after he drove baseline from the opposite side was another snapshot of his ability to make the right choice. Then he hit a three to put the Blazers up nine, forcing OKC to call a timeout. After that timeout the Thunder went on to take a 15 point lead. The team that played like one still had enough to fight back however. CJ finally warmed up (We saw you Nurk! and so did McCollum), hitting shots that proved pivotal down the stretch. There was lil Curry making a defensive play, and there was Mo making clutch free throws, and then there was Dame.
Lillard would wind up making a driving layup to tie the game one last time, his next shot was game! You know what time it is, Dame Time. How's about a nice even fifty in your eye? BYE BYE.
Only in the NBA,