Damian Lillard’s penchant of late-game heroics has helped make him one of the greatest players in the game today. When Lillard’s on the court, crunch-time is known as Dame Time. He’s proven himself so many times in the biggest moments that it feels legitimately shocking on the rare occasions when he comes up short. It happened on Saturday against the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Blazers needed a win to keep pace in the race for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference playoff picture. It felt like they caught a break with the Clippers resting Kawhi Leonard and playing without Patrick Beverley. Yet as the two teams traded buckets late into the fourth quarter, the Blazers needed Lillard to save the day once again.
This time, he couldn’t do it. Lillard missed a pair of free throws with Portland trailing by one point with 18 seconds left. Dame got one more chance to be the hero, but a potential game-tying three he launched out of a stepback was off the mark. The Clippers won the game, 122-117, even after they decided to rest Paul George in crunch-time for he described as “load management.”
Beverley and George each enjoyed Lillard coming up short. Beverley was loudly taunting Lillard from the bench, and he was laughing hysterically when his free throws rimmed out:
Clippers' Patrick Beverley taps his wrist loudly and yells out "DOLLA Time" from the bench as Blazers' Damian Lillard misses a pair of clutch free throws— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) August 8, 2020
The Clippers bench after Dame missed two clutch FTs pic.twitter.com/sRDz8BWY1o— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 8, 2020
Remember when Lillard waved goodbye to the Thunder upon hitting a series-ending buzzer-beater over George last season? The Clippers sure do:
George had this comment after the game:
"It's part of the game. Simple as that. It's just competition. Some people can play with talking, some people can't." -- Paul George, who told Gary Trent Jr. that he talks to much, discussing trash talk post-game— Casey Holdahl (@CHold) August 8, 2020
Lillard had the best response to the Clippers trash talk
Lillard was asked about the Clippers taunting after the game. Somehow, even when Dame comes up short, it feels like he wins.
Damian Lillard on the antics of Patrick Beverly and Paul George down the stretch of today’s game. Lillard unloads. pic.twitter.com/NFgEiiVHVi— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) August 8, 2020
Here’s the translated quote:
Asking me about Patrick Beverley, I’ve sent him home before at the end of a game. Paul George got sent home by me last year in the playoffs. They know. The reason they’re reacting like that is because of what they expect from me. It’s a sign of respect. It shows what I’ve done at a high clip more times than not. I’m not offended by it. If anything it should tell you how much it hurt them to go through what I put them through previously.
“If anything it should tell you how much it hurt them to go through what I put them through previously.”
It’s true: Dame’s two most iconic moments came against Beverley and George. Beverley was on the 2014 Rockets when Lillard knocked them out of the playoffs with an iconic Game 7 dagger. George was defending Lillard when he hit the walk-off buzzer-beater vs. the Thunder last year.
The trash talking continued between Lillard and Paul George on Instagram
“More success” huh? Well, PG’s Pacers teams did go to two conference finals compared to one for Dame’s Blazers, but that still feels like a stretch.
It seems like there’s some real bad blood here.
Paul George later went on Instagram and posted a photo. Depending on how you read it, he’s either incredibly relaxed after a dramatic day or he’s specifically fishing to add to Patrick Beverley’s Cancun comment.
Yes, Portland’s loss to the Clippers is a brutal blow to their playoff chances. Lillard will certainly be thinking about his missed free throws for a while. But trust me: the next time the game is on the line and Lillard has the ball, you won’t want to bet against him.