Two years ago today, Portland Trail Blazers All-Star hit “The Shot” to propel his team past the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs. In a moment etched in history, Lillard stood impossibly far away from the basket, with time dwindling and the game on the line, only to arc a perfect strike over the outstretched hand of Paul George, earning second-round status for his team and NBA immortality for himself.
Two years ago today, Damian Lillard sent the Thunder packing after this epic game winner over Paul George pic.twitter.com/6eryBMgpD2— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 23, 2021
In memory of the moment, Casey Holdahl of the Trail Blazers compiled an oral history of the event, detailing the background, execution, and aftermath from the point of view of the players who lived it.
As Holdahl chronicles, Lillard himself valued the game, not just as a potential series victory (with his team up 3-1), but as a chance to show the world who the Blazers were. Dame explains:
So in my mind, I was like, alright, we going home for Game 5, we can beat these dudes 4-1, that would be a great turnaround, you know what I’m saying? Not only would it be a first-round victory, it would be dominance over them. A team that swept us during the regular season and talked trash, everybody picked them to beat us. I was like, this a chance to really show dominance over them in this series.
“Just finish them off at home, this is what has to happen. That was my thought process. Don’t just think, alright, this gonna be cool, they gonna go away. Let’s come out here to really show dominance over them.”
Holdahl also recounts a facet of the story that many forget: Portland led comfortably in the second half, only to cede a 30-6 run to the Thunder in the late-third and early-fourth quarters. With the game in doubt, they got a boost from injured center Jusuf Nurkic, who left his couch at home to join his teammates on the sidelines, electrifying the crowd and inspiring the roster. Holdahl quotes Blazers forward Zach Collins:
“To have him there — Nurk really knows how to get the crowd going and yelling. We weren’t out of it mentally but that gave us an energy boost. Everybody felt it, everyone was like ‘Nurk’s with us, we can do this’ even though he’s not playing. That was awesome. Everything with his injury and how huge he was for our team, everybody knows that. He’s definitely one of our emotional leaders. We look to him when he’s on the court, we always get that boost because he’s not afraid of anything. Obviously for the crowd to see that and for us to see that, it was big.”
Naturally, the narrative leads up to the Big Moment, which Lillard describes thus:
“Once I got the ball, I was bringing it up, I looked at the clock and I was like, let me just see where I could get to where (George) is going to still be backed off of me. So I dribbled up, I stopped — he was kind of looking around, he was backing up — and I was like, the clock was winding down, I’m not going to the rim, they not gonna call nothing right now to decide the game. So I was like, ‘I’m just gonna shoot this shit from right here.’”
Holdahl’s piece reveals infinitely more about the moment, including reactions of CJ McCollum, Anfernee Simons, and other Trail Blazers teammates to The Shot, its aftermath, and its significance. It’s a can’t miss read for Blazers fans.
To satiate your appetite, here are a few other accounts remembering the play.
2 YEARS.— BLAZERS ARGENTO (@BlazersArgento) April 23, 2021
Love you, @Dame_Lillard.
17-33 FG (52%)
10- 18 3P (56%)
6-8 FT (75%)
Game Winner & 2nd Playoff Series-Clinching Buzzer-Beater of his career (Tied with MJ).
One of the best PO Series-Clinching performances ever. pic.twitter.com/iRlNywLuBP
"That's my MF brother!"— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) April 23, 2021
2 years ago today, LaNae Lillard's reaction to watching her big brother hit one of the greatest shots in NBA history.
.@Dame_Lillard ... goosebumps pic.twitter.com/a4DYr4G8lQ— NBC Sports Northwest (@NBCSNorthwest) April 23, 2021