Today marks the anniversary of two iconic moments in Portland Trail Blazers history delivered by two of the franchise’s greatest players: Damian Lillard and Brandon Roy.
Four years ago, on April 23, 2019, Lillard hit a 37-foot buzzer-beater to eliminate the Oklahoma City Thunder from the first round of the NBA Playoffs. Going further back, on April 23, 2011, Roy led a furious fourth quarter comeback from 18 down to defeat the Dallas Mavericks 84-82 and even the first round series at 2-2.
So in a season when Portland didn’t qualify for the NBA Playoffs, why not get a little misty-eyed reminiscing about the postseason triumphs of yesteryear?
Both moments came at different stages in the all-time greats’ careers. For Lillard, the shot represented the ultimate “I’m Him” coronation, a master course on audacity and guts at the biggest stage. In an intense series thick with trash talk and dubbed as a showdown between Lillard and OKC point guard Russell Westbrook, Lillard decided to finish the fight himself.
With 19 seconds left and the score tied 115-115, Lillard casually dribbled down the clock in front of the Moda Center crowd. Sizing up Paul George just over the timeline, Lillard waited until three seconds remained — causing many fans, including this writer, to scream at their TV, “GO!” — before stepping to his right and unleashing the dagger.
On this day in 2019... Dame buried this iconic series-clincher! pic.twitter.com/cnHFUqGLtF— NBA History (@NBAHistory) April 23, 2023
The buzzer-beater gave Portland a 118-115 win in Game 5 and a 4-1 series victory. It also capped a a series-clinching stat line for the ages: 50 points, seven rebounds, six assists and 10 3-pointers. The cherry on top was the superstar’s calm “Bye-Bye” wave to the Thunder bench after making one of the most absurd shots in NBA history.
In the postgame press conference, George criticized the attempt from Lillard by calling it a “Bad Shot.” Whether he knew it or not, George’s salty remark created the nickname for the iconic moment in Blazers lore.
“The Bad Shot” would propel Portland to the Western Conference Finals, marking the franchise’s best postseason run in almost 20 years. Maybe more significant, Lillard’s second series-clinching buzzer-beater cemented the legend of Dame Time, starting a wrist-tapping epidemic across the country and pronouncing the franchise star to all as one of the coldest, most clutch performers in the sport.
Back in 2011, Roy’s playoff heroics against the Mavericks marked a bittersweet swan song in an adored star’s career ended too early by injuries. It was Roy’s final performance as King of Rip City, a last stand in front of a fanbase he helped revive after several uninspired years.
Roy, then just 26, underwent knee surgery that January and was still hampered by pain. That season his points per game dropped to 12.2 and he only appeared in 47 games. By the playoffs, Roy was out of the starting lineup and went scoreless in Game 2. But with Portland down 2-1 in the series and trailing 67-49 entering the fourth, the two-time All-Star delivered a flashback, near-spiritual performance to will his team back.
Roy scored 18 of his 24 points in the final period, tying the game at 82-82 with a 4-point play at the 1:06 mark. Then he banked in the game-winner from just inside the free throw line with 39.2 seconds left, sending the home crowd and his teammates into a frenzy. It was the Old Roy, alive and well, reminding everybody why they fell in love with his game in the first place. Check out the full highlights from Roy’s masterful quarter:
The 84-82 win evened the series at 2-2, but the Mavericks would win the next two games on their way to becoming NBA Champions. Roy’s Portland tenure would end that off-season due to early retirement, emphasizing the unexpected, impressive nature of the performance. That last great game against the Mavs will be remembered and discussed by Rip City diehards for years to come.
Blazers fans, what do you remember about these iconic franchise moments? Where were you? Who did you scream with?
Please share in the comments below!