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
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images) /

4. Dame, 1; Probabilities and Math, 0.

To quote one of absolute favorite sayings in basketball — and I don’t know if someone actually said this, but I know I have — there’s no advanced statistic that quantifies heart. You can tell me about how bad midrange shots are, or about the shooting percentages of Lillard and McCollum until you’re blue in the face. But on the night of Game Five, math didn’t prevail.

With 6:55 remaining in the fourth quarter, flights to Oklahoma City for a Game Six seemed all but booked. The Thunder led 107-92, the byproduct of a 32-8 run that bled into the fourth quarter. ESPN’s win probability gave the Thunder a 98.7 percent chance of closing the game out.

That’s amazing. And even later, ESPN’s algorithm told the same story. 2:07 left, the Thunder up 113-107, and had a 93.3 percent likelihood to win. Don’t tell that to Damian Lillard and his guys, though.

From its existence, basketball has been a game of runs. It looked as though Portland would run away with one of its own, after Portland went up 84-75, giving them an 85.5 win probability. That lead was quickly thawed and then burnt to a crisp over the ensuing possessions. With the likes of Westbrook hitting 3-pointers, it’d have been a respectable loss.

Portland continued to battle, each starter playing a part. That in mind, it’s high time to give a moment of silence to Moe Harkless, who not only defended each of Oklahoma City’s stars for lengthy stints, but also tied for a team-high 10 points in the fourth quarter alone. His clutch free throws — two pairs of trips that kept Portland to within a shot on multiple occasions — don’t come with ceremony. (And neither does Aminu’s stop on Westbrook that set up the shot, or Kanter battling through shoulder injuries throughout). But they all matter.

To quote Holdhahl’s article one more time, it was fun to see the faith Harkless’ teammates had in him, despite him being just a 61.2 percent shooter at the charity stripe.

"“There was no doubt in my mind he was going to make those free throws. He was the unsung hero of that game, he basically shifted the entire game, especially after starting off 1-of-6 at the free throw line to just calmly step up and knock it down. They was drawls.” — C.J. McCollum"

You heard C.J. Drawls indeed.

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Portland would later struggle to close out games in similar fashion, but on this night, all was right in the city of Portland, which in so many words means, all was right in the whole world, too.