The Portland Trail Blazers’ 113-111 overtime victory over the Phoenix Suns on Friday night wasn’t secured until the very last seconds of the game. After four quarters and five minutes of fierce fighting, Portland’s fragile lead came down to Suns center Deandre Ayton, headed to the foul line with 1.2 seconds remaining, his team down two. If he converted the foul shots, another overtime loomed. Anything else, and Portland would almost certainly win.
As we know. Ayton missed the shots, the first unintentionally, the second on purpose. But before he ever stepped to the line, Trail Blazers All Star guard Damian Lillard was in his ear, saying something of significance.
After the game, reporters asked Lillard what he said to Ayton. Sean Highkin tweeted the quote from post game interviews:
Damian Lillard on what he said to Deandre Ayton at the foul line at the end: “I just asked him, ‘have you ever been in this situation before?’ I wanted him to think about it a little bit. And then when he ignored me, I felt like he was thinking about it.”
Lillard himself is famous for converting free throws in any and all circumstances. Ayton holds a career free throw average of 75.1%, which is about average. But in these circumstances, it’s clear who the better option would be. Lillard appears to have reminded Ayton of same, and it may have influenced the outcome of the game towards Portland.
Stay tuned for a wrap-up of Portland-Phoenix from Conor Bergin later in the day.