Lillard Vows To 'See Y'all Again' After Game 5 Loss In Denver
Despite an individual effort rarely, if ever, seen in NBA playoff history, Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard knew the game was over with the Nuggets leading 145-140 and Shaquille Harrison going the line to shoot two free throws with 3.8 seconds to play in the second overtime of Game 5 Tuesday night in Denver.
Though he had hit a 28-foot stepback three over Michael Porter Jr. to send the game to overtime, and then went on a personal 12-3 run, capped by another stepback three with 6.6 seconds on the game clock, to send the game to a second extra period, the time, score and situation in what would be the waining moments of the game would not afford Lillard the opportunity to extend the game to a third overtime. While Lillard rarely stops believing, he’s also played in more than enough games to know when the ghost has been given.
But before heading to the locker room to shower, dress and take questions from the media before getting on a plane bound for Portland, Lillard answered a few fans in the crowd at Ball Arena with the same confidence that he carried himself with while scoring 37 points in the second half and overtimes of Game 5.
“They talking about ‘Bye!’ and I’m like ‘Y’all gonna see us again,’” recounted Lillard. “Two of the fans, I said ‘We’ll see y’all again. Game 7.’”
In order to force a Game 7 in Denver, the Trail Blazers will need to get Game 6 in Portland, which is scheduled for Thursday at 5 p.m. at Moda Center. And to do that, the Trail Blazers will have to put Game 5 behind them quickly while also getting better production from Lillard’s supporting cast, a group that went 1-of-14 from the field over the course of two overtimes Tuesday night.
“At this point, all that matters is that we can't lose another game in this series,” said Lillard. “We go out there and we played to win the game and we came up short. We're going back home, it's a must-win or else our season is over and then we have to come back here and win on their floor again. So that's what it is.”
While Lillard’s confidence that he and the Trail Blazers will come out victorious in Game 6 in order to force a Game 7 in Denver doesn’t require that he show his work -- you have cause to believe whatever you want when you almost single-handedly win a playoff game behind one of the best postseason performances in NBA history -- he did point out that they’ve been in almost this exact same situation before.
Back in 2019, the Trail Blazers lost back-to-back games, including a Game 5 in Denver in which they were blown out by 26 points, to go down 3-2 in the Western Conference semifinals. But facing elimination, they’d return to Portland to win Game 6, 119-108, to force a Game 7 in Denver. Both teams have changed considerably since that series, but Lillard was there, He saw it with his own eyes.
So when Lillard responded to the Nuggets fans waving goodbye, he did so not as a man shooting his mouth off due to frustration, but as a true NBA superstar with an assuredness born out of validated confidence and past experience.
“We did it before,” said Lillard. “We’ve got to take care of home and then come back here for another tough one. That’s what it is, that’s what it’s going to take, that what we’ve got to do. We don’t have a choice, it’s win two or go home.”