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Legend Building: Lillard’s Clutch Game 5

Regardless of the Trail Blazers loss, Damian Lillard’s Game 5 performance ranks among the greatest outings of all time.

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2021 NBA Playoffs - Portland Trail Blazers v Denver Nuggets Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

The Trail Blazers are on the cusp of an early exit from the postseason, but Damian Lillard’s heroic Game 5 performance is positioned to live on in the memory of NBA fans forever. On Tuesday, Lillard willed the Blazers to two overtime periods in hopes of pushing Portland to a 3-2 series lead over the Denver Nuggets. Unfortunately, Lillard’s 55-point night fell short.

After the game, The Athletic’s Marcus Thompson II explained that Lillard’s big night will live on regardless of the result for the Blazers.

Some performances just etch their way into memories, like Brooks was here. To witness such talent and skill, the flair for the dramatic, a rising to the moment, it imprints onto our collective psyche. You don’t forget those gems hoop delivers. Michael Jordan’s 69 in Boston. Klay Thompson’s 37 in a quarter. Reggie Miller’s eight points in 8.9 seconds. Larry Bird’s 60 against the Hawks in New Orleans when he was calling his shots. LeBron scoring 25 straight against the Pistons. Kobe Bryant’s 81.

The report from The Athletic went on to put Lillard’s Game 5 in context with the rest of his career achievements.

Yeah, Dame gave us one of those kinds of nights. Another one. His 55 points and NBA playoff record 12 3s — breaking Thompson’s mark of 11 set in Game 6 of the 2016 Western Conference Finals — was a stellar work of clutchness. What made it so breathtaking was the lack of surprise. At this point, we all know who he is; one of the game’s all-time masters at high-pressure shots. He’s ended the seasons of Houston and Oklahoma City in the playoffs, and dagger’d countless others. Tuesday, he outdid himself by cramming a career’s worth into the crunch time of Game 5.

Lillard finished the night with 55 points on just 24 attempts from the field. With the game on the line, Lillard scored 17 of the Blazers’ final 19 points. Outside of his scoring, Lillard also recorded 10 assists.

You can read the full report from Marcus Thompson II at The Athletic (subscription required).