The Rockets were pushed to the limits, fighting against every basket they got. The Nuggets weren’t exactly a pushover, holding them to a point in the first half where they shot just 31% from the field and 24% from the three-point line. While the Rockets were only up by a margin of two or three points most of the game, the Nuggets were able to stay in it thanks to a couple of three-pointers by the team’s best three-point shooter, and a couple of clutch buckets by Patrick Patterson.
Back in late January, it was announced that Damian Lillard had signed a new, long-term contract extension with the Portland Trail Blazers. It was the news that the Blazers had been waiting for for quite some time, but the feeling was that this big event was going to be overshadowed by the announcement of Steph Curry reaching the same milestone. That was, until Sunday, when Lillard went off for 43 points on 11-of-20 shooting—including the game-winning shot—in Portland’s Game 5 win over the Denver Nuggets.
Damian Lillard has played many historic games in his career. He is known for his iconic shot in the final game of the playoffs against the Oklahoma City Thunder, who defeated the Blazers in five games in 2019. He also had a resounding series against the Houston Rockets in 2014. But as impressive as those victories were, Lillard’s performance in Game 5 against the Nuggets in this year’s playoffs should be just as stimulating.
Although the Blazers lost to the Nuggets in six games, Damian Lillard had one of the best playoffs of his career. Game 5, in which he had 55 points, 10 assists, six rebounds, three blocks and a steal, is one of the best games not only in his career, but in NBA history. Lillard hit 12 three-pointers in that game, making him the only player to hit that many three-pointers in a playoff game.
Unfortunately, Lillard’s Blazers lost this game in two overtimes, so it didn’t have much appeal. In fact, it’s easier to remember a player’s historic achievement when he leads his team to victory. Michael Jordan’s 63 points against the Boston Celtics in Game 2 of the 1986 Eastern Conference quarterfinals may be the only exception. But almost all lost attempts are lost in time. What do you think of LeBron James’ 50/8/8 game against the Golden State Warriors in 2018?
In addition to that remarkable figure, Lillard shot 70.8 percent from the field, 70.6 percent from three-point range and 90 percent from the free throw line, according to NBA.com. According to Basketball-Reference.com, Lillard has the most game points in playoff history with 55.90. Even more impressive was the way Lillard tried to lead his team to victory.
This data is not just for filling out a statistics sheet. Lillard made two crucial shots late in the fourth quarter and late in the first extension to keep the Blazers in the game. He also scored 17 of the Blazers’ 19 points in the stretch. That alone should show how legendary Lillard’s performance was.
Despite this result, Lillard is in good company with Jordan and James, two of the best basketball players of all time. Unfortunately, it didn’t get the hype it deserved for several reasons.
On the same day that Damian Lillard played his legendary game, the Lakers (arguably the most popular team in the league) and the Suns played their fifth game at the same time. It was the same game James came out of with five minutes left in the fourth quarter that dominated the morning’s discussion. It’s fair to say that James’ departure was an even hotter topic than Lillard’s historic night. Unfortunately, that’s how the media works these days.
There will always be more focus on the Lakers compared to other teams. After Game 5, the Lakers found themselves in the same position as the Blazers, just one loss away from elimination. But unlike the Blazers, the Lakers defended their title and entered the regular season as favorites. The weight of their loss was a bit more insidious because, after all, the Lakers had been underwhelming all year.
Another reason Lillard’s Game 5 was underrated could be that he was playing against the league’s MVP, Nikola Jokic. Jokic also had a productive night with 38 points, 11 rebounds and 9 assists. It’s not Jokic’s fault that Lillard’s night was underrated, but remember that at the end of the day, the winner always gets the credit.
In addition to Lillard’s excellent performance, the Blazers’ role players also received a lot of criticism after the game. One player who has received a lot of criticism is C.J. McCollum, who is supposed to be supporting Lillard.
With 11 seconds left in the second extension, C.J. grabbed the rebound, preventing the Blazers from tying the game. While it’s not fair to blame one player for a loss in a basketball game, C.J.’s unforced error cost the Blazers this game and possibly the series.
Speaking of the Blazers’ role players: No one but Lillard scored more than 20 points in Game 5. And the fact that the Blazers only lost by seven points in two extension periods says a lot about the incredible performance of the ladies. In the end, Lillard gave it his all, but it’s fair to criticize the support around him, because when 55 points can’t beat an injury-plagued Nuggets team, something has to change.
Considering how the NBA has evolved over the past decade, this game could have a lot of implications for the future. While Damian Lillard has downplayed the number of trade rumors surrounding his name this season, it’s possible that Dahm is no longer a Blazers player. Of course, this is only theoretical, but this kind of movie has happened before and it wouldn’t be shocking if Dame was the star this time. All through one game. Oh, the way the NBA works.
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