The Portland Trail Blazers trailed the Houston Rockets by two with all but nine-tenths of a second remaining in game six. Damian Lillard ran behind the arc from the strong to the weak side with nine-tenths of a second remaining to retrieve the inbounds pass.
Lillard charged full-speed ahead of Chandler Parsons to catch the pass, turn, fire, and nail the shot as time expired.
Amongst the excitement, I found one thought repeating in my head: ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!
Ever since Lillard entered the league in 2013, he has held the league’s attention with his brilliant play, but this…this felt different. You look at the context of the shot—the 3-2 series lead, down by two, round one…etc. – and he takes a shot as gutsy as this? I’m not even talking about clutch or any Kobe-esque hero ball. After all, this was a good look, but I’m talking about how non-sensible and daring this move was.
Instead of running a play closer to the rim that would have them playing for overtime, the Blazers drew up the equivalent of a Hail Mary. Yet, not only did they get a shot off, they were able to get a shot for their star point guard where he was able to catch the ball, get set and shoot an uncontested jumper in less than a second. This scenario had to have played out better than any Blazers player, coach or fan could have ever imagined and made for a signature moment of these playoffs up until this point.
This is like when Rose jumps back onto the Titanic from the life boat and runs back to Jack, leading him to say, “Rose, you stupid, stupid girl.” Yes, this is the same thing: Jack was excited to see her, but knows that her actions went against every bit of sensibility in his body. That’s how I feel about Lillard’s shot. It wasn’t the most sensible shot to take, but IT WENT IN! Rose took her risk to go for what she wanted most, and Lillard did the same thing going for the series win instead of overtime.
The only difference here, of course, is that Lillard won the series, and Rose floated for hours on a door with Jack’s cold dead body clinging to it as the ship sunk.
Even Lillard’s reaction to it was terrific. His arms were flat against his side and stared proudly towards the Houston basket as his teammates cleared the bench to celebrate for him. It was almost as if he knew that was going in before it ever left his hand and therefore did not necessitate any form of exuberance from him. How could he? Lillard took the shot that was a couple feet behind the line for all the marbles with 0.9 remaining; miss and it’s game seven on Sunday or play conservatively for the tie and steal it in overtime.
Instead of hopping on the life boat the first time, Lillard chose to take his chances on the floating door. And for that, we are all thankful.