Let’s admit it: Damian Lillard’s clutch 3-pointers have become a fact of life. Like the fact that the sky is blue and ice is cold. We feel like anytime he fires a 3, whether from the corner or the logo, we know it’s going to go in. Sometimes, we even feel disappointed if it doesn’t because we expect so much from a guy like Lillard.
We tend to forget that every single shot he’s taking in the clutch is a thousand times harder than any regular shot. The pressure, defense, clock -- everything’s against the shooter. And yet, time and time again, Lillard shows fans why he’s one of the best players in the league.
In Game 5 in the Blazers’ series against the Denver Nuggets, Lillard had 55 points, 10 assists, six rebounds, one steal, three blocks, and only ONE turnover. Oh, and he played for almost 52 minutes.
“Last night, he had one of those nights where -- no matter what you did, he was going to score the basketball,” Austin Rivers, who was one of the Nuggets players tasked to defend Lillard, said after the game.
In those 55 points, he made not one, but THREE crucial game-defining shots. He hit the first one with only three seconds left in regulation that tied the game and sent it to overtime, then two made consecutive shots from downtown in the first overtime period which brought them into double overtime.
The guy is a genius on offense. His performance, which Nuggets coach Michael Malone called ”superhuman”, literally kept the Trail Blazers alive, who eventually lost by seven points. Lillard shot an incredible 70.8 percent from the field and hit 12-of-17 attempts from beyond the arc (70.6%).
Lillard was so hot from deep that Rivers thanked the basketball gods when he missed one particular time.
Watch Austin Rivers after the miss 😆 pic.twitter.com/SNMespsUJr— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 2, 2021
He also set a few records in the process. Lillard became the first player in NBA history to score 55+ points and 10+ assists in a playoff game. He also became the first player to score 55+ points and make 10+ threes in the playoffs. And he set a record for most 3-pointers made in a playoff game with 12 -- beating Klay Thompson’s 11 during the historic Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals between the Golden State Warriors and OKC Thunder in 2016.
If you remember, Lillard almost beat Thompson’s record two years ago, when he made 10 from downtown in the game where he waved Paul George and the Thunder goodbye after knocking down the game-winning, series-ending 3.
Dame. Called. Game. 👋 pic.twitter.com/8Z0skeDbZE— Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) April 24, 2019
Lillard is mentally tough and plays with no fear whatsoever, earning the respect of one of this season’s top MVP candidates.
“It’s amazing… He's a guy that’s really talented and he affects games especially in the 3-point line, but today he was incredible,” Nikola Jokic said. “It was a pleasure to be on the court just to witness that.”
Rivers couldn’t have said it any better.
“It’s always a challenge guarding the better players in the league, but it’s something I love to do. Last night was fun actually -- it wasn’t fun with him making all the shots, but the challenge is always fun going against a guy like that because it just elevates your game,” said Rivers.
Despite all the recognition, though, we still know Lillard’s mission is not over. With guys like Lillard, we know that records can be broken on any given day, and fans are excited to see what he achieves next.