Damian Lillard dribbled the clock down. With the shot clock turned off, the game tied at 115 and a chance to send Oklahoma City home in a first-round gentleman’s sweep, Lillard was in no rush. No rush at all.
With seven seconds on the clock, he sized up Paul George — one of the NBA’s five best perimeter defenders — just inside the half-court line. With six seconds to go, he advanced the ball about a foot. With four seconds left, he put the ball between his legs. With three on the clock, he side-stepped from 37 feet out and drained a buzzer-beating bomb of a game winner that clinched a 4-1 Blazers’ series victory and delivered the Thunder their third consecutive first-round playoff exit.
Then, Lillard calmly walked off, and waved goodbye to the team whose soul he just ripped from its core. As his teammates rushed him, Lillard had no smile, no excitement. This was the demeanor of a heartless assassin. The face of a basketball hitman, who had just collected his latest bounty.
Lillard has many names. His rap name is Dame D.O.L.L.A. The range he kindly displayed in Game 5 earned him the nickname Logo Lillard. But in case you forgot, crunch time is Lillard Time.
Lillard lives this clutch life
Crunch-time is defined by the NBA as the final five minutes or overtime for a team either ahead or behind five or fewer points. But Lillard has been so good, so late in games, we need to be a little more specific. Newly-named game-on-the-line time is the final minute of a game where a team is behind three or fewer points, or tied.
In his seven NBA regular seasons, Lillard has made 44-of-114 shots that fall in this category. That’s a 38.6 percent clip with the pressure of the world on his shoulders. For reference, 44 players — including Kevin Love, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Knox, and Allen Crabbe — shot 38.6 percent or worse from the field at all times this season.
Here’s how other star point guards stack up in Lillard time:
- Kyrie Irving: 36-of-83 (43.3 percent) [2018-19]
- Chris Paul: 47-of-119 (39.5 percent) [2018-19]
- Stephen Curry: 27-of-76 (35.5 percent) [2018-19]
- Russell Westbrook: 51-of-182 (31.8 percent) [2018-19]
- Kemba Walker: 38-of-123 (30.8 percent) [2018-19]
The NBA’s stats site has spotty records of refined clutch playoff shooting statistics prior to the 2017-18 season, but Lillard’s heartless buzzer-beater against Oklahoma City is a reminder: game-on-the-line time is Lillard time.
His soul-snatching shot in Game 5 is only the most recent example. Here’s a brief history of Dame Time:
1. Nov. 16, 2012 vs. Rockets
A rookie Lillard hit four ridiculously clutch shots against Houston this day.
2. Dec. 16, 2012 vs. Hornets
What a tough shot. THIS IS A ROOKIE, MAN.
3. March 10, 2013 vs. Hornets
STILL A ROOKIE! STILL HITTING CLUTCH SHOTS.
4. Nov. 11, 2013 vs. Suns
The Suns had so many opportunities to win this game, but Lillard’s game-winner stood strong.
5. Dec. 7, 2013 vs. Mavericks
What an incredible shot. Unfortunately, Monta Ellis rained on Lillard’s parade with the game-winner on the final possession.
6. Dec. 15, 2013 vs. Pistons
The degree of difficulty on this shot is incredible. How? How does he do it?
7. Dec. 17, 2013 vs. Cavs
I mean, come on.
8. Dec. 30, 2013 vs. Pelicans
A hesitation pull-up three, from at least 26 feet out, to tie the game. Lillard has absolutely no respect.
Unfortunately, Tyreke Evans answered with a game-winner on the next possession.
9. Feb. 1, 2014 vs. Raptors
Floater for the win. How nice.
10. May 2, 2014 vs. Rockets
Everyone remembers this shot that sent Houston home in the first round of the 2014 playoffs. But in case you don’t, here’s the tape to remind you.
11. Dec. 23, 2014 vs. Thunder
How appropriate — a game-tying shot against OKC.
12. Feb. 21, 2016 vs. Utah
Don’t overplay Lillard, or this will happen.
But also don’t play him straight up either, because this will happen.
13. Oct. 29, 2016 vs. Denver
Denver’s idea was to put Kenneth Faried on Lillard 26 feet away from the rim. Didn’t work.
14. Jan. 21, 2017 vs. Boston
Like we said before, don’t overplay Lillard, or he’ll go backdoor.
15. Nov. 2, 2017 vs. Lakers
Brandon Ingram’s long arms were supposed to give him an advantage in contesting Lillard’s shot. They didn’t.
16. Feb. 24, 2018 vs. Suns
Elfrid Payton and his floppy hair never stood a chance.
17. Dec. 27, 2018 vs. Warriors
Lillard pulled a Steph Curry and gave the ball up, before re-appearing in the corner for a contested triple.
18. And, of course, April 23, 2019 vs. Thunder
Lillard scored 50 points on this momentous night, and he sent the Thunder packing with this bomb of a game-winner, too.
Damian Lillard (50 PTS) buries the three for the #TissotBuzzerBeater and the @trailblazers advance to the Western Conference Semifinals with the 118-115 Game 5 victory! #ThisIsYourTime #RipCity#NBAPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/cVqLJkHLR4— NBA (@NBA) April 24, 2019