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Dame time: Blazers guard continues to beat the odds

/ 07:26 PM April 29, 2019
Damian Lillard Blazers

Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard leaves the court after hitting the game-winning three-pointer to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 118-115 in Game 5 of their best-of-seven first-round playoff series in Portland, Ore., Tuesday, April 23, 2019. Lillard finished with a franchise playoff-record 50 points and Portland eliminated Oklahoma City from the postseason. (Sean Meagher/The Oregonian via AP)

PORTLAND, Ore. — After he made his unforgettable 3-pointer at the buzzer to clinch Portland’s first-round series over Oklahoma City, Damian Lillard was mobbed by his teammates.

The television camera moved into the scrum, and Lillard looked directly into the lens. His expression was pure told-you-so.

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“Obviously he can score the ball with the best of them. But Dame has a chip on his shoulder, and he has since the day he walked into this league,” said Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green. “Just the way he grinds, he played like a guy from Oakland with a chip on his shoulder and a guy who has been doubted forever.”

The doubters don’t bother the 6-foot-3 Lillard. They seem to motivate him, fuel his hunger to prove them wrong.

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He enters the NBA conference semifinals on a roll, as confident as ever.

And it’s not just because of the 37-footer that eliminated the Thunder: He had 50 points in last Tuesday’s deciding game, a 118-115 Game 5 victory that sent the Blazers through to the Western Conference semifinals for the first time in three seasons. He had 34 points in the first half and finished with 10 3-pointers, second most ever in the playoffs.

He averaged 33 points over the five games against the Thunder, best for a playoff series in franchise history.

He has the Nuggets attention — along with the rest of the NBA.

“Damian Lillard’s on a tear right now,” Denver’s Paul Millsap acknowledged.

Lillard averaged 23.8 points per game to lead the Blazers in the regular season. Portland finished third in the Western Conference with 53 wins for a sixth straight appearance in the playoffs. Lillard has been on each of those teams.

“This was not a coming-out party. This is who he is,” said Blazers guard Seth Curry. “You watch basketball, you pay attention, you watch highlights, you know who he is as a player. He has done this all year and he’s been doing this every year.”

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Said teammate Rodney Hood: “It is time to put him up there with the top players in the league. This was icing on the cake. I know he is one of the best players in the league, now this performance will put him on the radar nationally.”

It seems the 28-year-old Lillard has spent his entire basketball career off the radar.

Lillard didn’t get a lot of interest from recruiters when he was a kid growing up in Oakland, California, and wound up at Weber State. He grabbed Portland’s attention and after an impressive hour-long solo workout and a dinner with owner Paul Allen, the Blazers took him with the sixth overall pick in the 2012 draft.

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TAGS: buzzer beater, Damian Lillard, Denver Nuggets, NBA, OKC Thunder, playoffs, Portland Trail Blazers, second round
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