What a way to bounce back.
A year after being swept in the first round of the 2018 playoffs as third seed, Damian Lillard ensured the Portland Trail Blazers handled business this year.
Leading their series 3-1 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Lillard iced the series in Game 5 by nailing a 37-foot buzzer-beating game-winner that capped off his 50-point game.
He joined some elite company, got Twitter abuzz and received appreciation from everyone - teammates, coaches, and opponents.
Blazers' coach Terry Stotts called it the best performance he had seen in person. Here's his full quote:
"Damian's performance was probably the best performance I have seen in person. Off the top of my head, I can't think of [any]. I've seen 50-point games, obviously, but the way he carried the team in the first half with CJ [McCollum] in foul trouble. The magnitude of the last shot, obviously to win a series. In fact, he's now won two series on a single shot. It was quite a performance and we had a lot of good effort up-and-down. You don't win a game with one guy but he certainly was special tonight."
Lillard's final box score read - 50 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 steals on 17-of-33 shooting (51.5%) from the field and a franchise record 10 three-pointers (55.6%) while playing 45:16 of a possible 48 minutes.
It takes a special player to have multiple game-winning 3-point buzzer-beaters in the playoffs when there has been only one other player to have done the same over the last 15 postseasons - LeBron James.
Here's what Lillard had to say about the shot:
"When it left my hands, it felt good." 😎- NBA TV (@NBATV) April 24, 2019
Dame shares what it felt like to hit the game-winner to end the series tonight.#NBAPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/WwP7qpGgHn
His backcourt mate CJ McCollum threw more praise at him:
"This performance definitely ranks towards the top, probably at the top, just because of what he had to go through tonight. I picked up my thrid foul in the first quarter, he has to play 24 straight minutes, carried the load offensively while trying to guard Russ [Westbrook], who attacks and gets downhill every possession. His confidence never waivered, his stamina, and ability to hit tough shots off the dribble, finishing around the basket. He carried the load all night and when we needed baskets, he got them."
As the postgame press conference's wrapped up, the last one's on the podium were the Oklahoma City Thunder's All-Star duo - Russell Westbrook and Paul George.
George, who was guarding Lillard on that final shot, tipped his hat off to the great performance:
"It was his night. He felt it and he knocked them down."- NBA TV (@NBATV) April 24, 2019
Paul George (36 PTS & 9 REB) speaks after losing to Portland in Game 5.#NBAPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/tbLTnUzmk2
Towards the end, speaking about the shot again, he went on to call it a "bad shot".
"That's a bad shot. I don't care what anybody says. That's a bad shot. But, hey, he made it. That story won't be told, that it's a bad shot. You live with that."
This is the third straight first-round exit for both Russell Westbrook and the Thunder's playoff road losing streak to 12. It's the fourth straight first-round exit for Paul George.
However, Lillard's shot ensures that the Blazers make their first Conference Semifinals since 2016 and the third time appearance at that stage in his career.