Portland Trail Blazers: Four forgotten moments that led up to Damian Lillard’s legendary shot

Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images) /
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Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
C.J. McCollum, Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images) /

2. C.J. McCollum’s foul trouble

Life tells us that for every Batman, there’s supposed to be a Robin. Throw some masks on Portland’s star backcourt duo, and you might’ve had a hard time telling either one of them that they would have to be the co-star. Here’s a look at their statistics heading into this game:

  • Damian Lillard — 28.8 points, 3.8 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 43.9 percent from the field, 44.4 percent from 3, 87.1 percent from the free throw line
  • C.J. McCollum — 26.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 46.3 percent from the field, 51.6 from 3, and 76.5 percent from the free throw line

The beautiful thing is that the two of them have openly spoken in detail about how they love to see each other succeed. But in a do-or-die postseason game, they needed Batman’s skills (um, intellect?) and the best of Robin’s too (conditioning?).

Three fouls on McCollum in the first nine minutes would prove to be The Joker on this night.

McCollum played the first 8:49 of the first half, and then missed the entire second half.

This is good and bad; it allowed McCollum a chance to rest. Seth Curry and Rodney Hood were among a few Blazers backcourt stars who stepped up. And at the time, I remember thinking that he’d gap the bridge that Lillard created, and carry Portland across in the second half. For volume scorers, and players in general, it was easier said than done. It disrupted McCollum’s rhythm.

On NBA.com, Portland Trail Blazers beat reporter got a chance to do an oral history of that Game Five, where he chronicled a bit of the dialogue between Lillard and McCollum.

"“I was telling (McCollum) the whole game ‘You’re going to come up big, stay with it’ and all that. I was on his line talking to him like that. And he was like ‘Just keep going, I’m going to be there with you in the end, I got you.’ He just kept saying that, ‘I got you,’ and I just told him we gonna get it done. That’s what I love the most about C is he don’t waiver, his confidence is always there. He not gonna stop being CJ, it’s almost like a little arrogance, you know?”"

Credit to McCollum, who never gets his fair due in the public eye. He worked his way into 16 shot attempts in the second half, hitting an efficient seven of them. With Lillard creating more, he was among the biggest beneficiaries of that. Portland only goes as far as its two heroic guards can take them. And on the night of Apr. 23rd, Rip City and Gotham City couldn’t have been told apart.