On Tuesday night, April 23rd, the Blazers and Thunder were matched up in Game 5 of Round 1 in the 2019 NBA Playoffs. Portland led the series 3-1, playing at home. Though the Thunder had been favored mildly going into the series, no game since the series opener had been close. This one was, though.
Portland and OKC were separated by only two points headed into the fourth period of the contest. The margin fluctuated throughout the quarter, but remained intact with 40 seconds remaining as Thunder All-Star Paul George hit a mid-range jumper to put his team ahead 115-113. At that point Lillard had scored 45 on 17-31 shooting. It looked as if his enormous effort might go to waste.
On the next possession, though, Lillard scored his 46th and 47th points, converting a layup to tie the game with 33 seconds remaining.
Oklahoma City’s other All-Star, Russell Westbrook, himself working on a 29-point outing, missed a layup with 19 seconds remaining, leaving the score knotted at 115. The Blazers had a timeout, but Head Coach Terry Stotts left the ball in Lillard’s hands for the final possession.
Lillard calmly dribbled out the clock near the halfcourt logo, waited for the three-second mark, stepped to his right...
And then this:
50. Ballgame. Series. Franchise.
George had barely moved to guard him, figuring that nobody would take such a huge shot from that range. Lillard proved him wrong as he waved, “Bye-Bye” to the Thunder, carrying his team to the second round of the playoffs over the shattered remains of Oklahoma City’s identity.
The Blazers would defeat the Denver Nuggets in seven games in the second round of the playoffs before getting swept by the Golden State Warriors in the Conference Finals. Lillard’s shot remains iconic not just in franchise history, but in the annals of NBA Playoffs buzzer beaters. It stamped Lillard’s talent, brand, and style on the public consciousness of the late 2010’s-early 2020’s NBA.