The clutch and overtime legend of Damian Lillard continues to grow with another massive performance from him, especially late in the 115-111 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder that had Russell Westbrook putting on an equally great performance while both LaMarcus Aldridge and Serge Ibaka got ejected in the final seconds of the game.
Lillard scored 40 points (second game in five days with 40 points or more), including the 3-pointer with three seconds in the game sending it into overtime, and scoring 7 of the Blazers’ 17 points in the extra period. Russell Westbrook finished with 40 points as well and had a nice run during overtime with six points before fouling out. His fourth quarter performance, missing five of eight attempts not to mention a foolish technical foul, could have been better.
This was the first time the Thunder had lost after Westbrook scored 40 points. It was bound to happen, a game after he was criticized by the press for shooting too much. After bad shooting nights Westbrook usually responds with shooting even more, and often doing quite well. It’s hard to say if needing 34 shots to reach 40 points is considered doing well, but it seems like there’s nothing standing in his way of doing whatever he wants while Kevin Durant is out with an injury.
Not that the Blazers were at full strength: Nicolas Batum and Robin Lopez weren’t playing, so besides Lillard having a huge night that included 11-of-21 from the field and 21 assists, LaMarcus Aldridge added 25 before his ejection for fighting with Ibaka under the basket (as always, Ibaka started it, but we’re not in kindergarten, and Aldridge shouldn’t have fallen into the provocation which is quite typical from Ibaka, one of the dirtiest players in the league). Wesley Matthews scored 22.
It’s impossible to define clutch, but one thing is clear: Lillard is great with the game on the line for whatever reason, and is sensational during overtimes, getting stronger and more focused while others are starting to drag their legs and grasp for air. In the never ending argument during the league’s golden age of scoring point guards (which some think doesn’t make them real point guards at all), Lillard is having a great season to put him right up there with every other name people might be willing to toss at him.
As for the Thunder, this is the ride they signed up for. Being unlucky enough to have Durant injured twice in the same season, they’re just going to have to wait and see how the Russell Westbrook ride ends, hopefully not giving them too much trouble. It’s fun to watch from the outside for both neutrals and haters because of the lightning in a bottle player Westbrook is, but this team was built on two players taking the game on their shoulders and shooting without thinking about others. Now there’s just one left.
The Blazers aren’t that different, but the offense isn’t built to sustain just two players. Aldridge is just as important to the offense as the variant number 1/2, but Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum are vital players offensively. Robin Lopez when healthy is someone teams need to pay attention to. C.J. McCollum from time to time proves picking him in the draft wasn’t a waste. There’s a reason the Blazers are great but not close to fizzling out like last season. This team wasn’t just made to score. It was built to last.