When the Portland Trail Blazers lost by five points Saturday night with 8.9 seconds left to play against the Chicago Bulls, NBA fans began what they call “lady time.”
Damian Lillard shot a three-pointer from three feet out with less than 10 seconds left in the game to bring the Blazers back to within two points. The Blazers then circled Bulls star Zach LaVine and won a bounce ball that landed in Lillard’s hands.
Lillard defeated Chicago 123-122 with a buzzer, taking three steps back on the long arms of Lauri Markkanen.
“This game is special because in situations where we’re down by five points with 11 seconds left in the game, those are the moments where the winning team thinks the game is almost over,” said Lillard, who scored 14 points in the fourth quarter. “And the opponent gets discouraged.”
Blazers coach Terry Stotts struggled to find the words to describe Lillard’s clutch after the win.
“It’s innate. It’s a gift from God,” Mr. Stotts said. “He was born with it, and you can’t teach it.”
Lillard finished with 44 points, nine assists and five rebounds and won his third game of his career, including a playoff victory. That’s the highest number of Trail Blazers in history, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
For Lillard, it was also the 35th game with 40 points of his career, more than double any other player in franchise history. Clyde Drexler scored 17.
Lillard’s teammates Enes Kanter and Gary Trent Jr. were not surprised by his late heroics. At the fanless United Center in Chicago, Kanter was one of the first teammates to hug him. Kanter said he was “used to this shot” but also understood that it is “amazing what he can do.”
“I was shocked when I first came here as a rookie and saw from day one if the training was over, if the games were over,” Trent added. “But now, at this point, that’s what he’s doing. In a way, no one is surprised. He’s making great leaps. He’s done it time and time again, so at that point I knew it was going to happen when he started shooting.”
Chicago scored 19 points the day before and fell behind in the second half to put the game out of reach. Markkanen finished with 31 points and six rebounds, while Lavine contributed 26 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
Portland played without Yusuf Nurkic (right wrist fracture), C.J. McCollum (midfoot sprain), Derrick Jones Jr. (left foot sprain) and Zach Collins (left ankle fracture).
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this is the first time since April 30, 2006 that a jump ball and a buzzer beater in the last ten seconds had equal possession of the ball. On that day, the Los Angeles Lakers won a jump ball against the Suns and Kobe Bryant hit the buzzer to win the game.
After Saturday’s hit, Lillard thanked his loved ones for planting these roots for him to survive in critical moments.
“It started in my own family. It’s crazy, and I think that’s why I always refer to my upbringing and the family I come from, because it’s just a challenge and my own family is very competitive,” Lillard said. “It could be like a spelling bee. It could be anything. We fight to the death, and it doesn’t matter. In my family, we hold ourselves to certain standards: being built for the weak moments and being good in the strong moments.”
“Your skin will be tough,” he said. “You will be ready to move up, and you will be ready to fail. But you will learn to move on, no matter what the outcome.”