It was unclear which sight was stranger: the Clippers voluntarily sitting Paul George with five minutes left in a one-point game, or Damian Lillard missing not one, but two clutch free throws that allowed LA’s bench lineup to steal a comeback 122-117 win over Portland.
What was clear was that George and the Clippers absolutely enjoyed Lillard’s unlikely crunch-time cough-up with 18.6 seconds left and LA leading by one. The nationally televised broadcast showed Patrick Beverley and Marcus Morris gleefully celebrating, with Beverley audibly mocking Lillard’s Dame D.O.L.L.A. nickname.
George, meanwhile, offered the same parting wave that Lillard issued to him when he was a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder team that lost to Portland in the first round of the playoffs a year ago. George’s postgame reaction in that instance included him insisting that Lillard’s game-winning 37-footer was a “bad shot” despite the result.
Saturday’s loss reduces Portland’s margin for error in the Western Conference race for the play-in tournament. The Blazers hold just a half-game lead over the Spurs, with the Suns also looming heading into their Saturday night tilt against Miami.
Lillard, however, did not hesitate to address the Clippers’ endgame antics following the loss.
“Asking me about Patrick Beverley, who I sent him home before at the end of a game,” Lillard offered. “Paul George is a guy sent home by me last year in the playoffs so they know. The reason they reacting like that is because of what they expecting from me, which is a sign of respect and it just shows what I have done at a high clip more times than not. I am not offended by it.
“If anything, it should just tell you how much it hurt them to go through what I put them through in those situations previously.”
The pointed remarks didn’t stop there. When Bleacher Report’s Instagram account posted Lillard’s postgame comments, George commented from his own account, “And you getting sent home this year [crying laughing emoji] respect.”
Beverley also alluded to an assumed early exit for the Blazers, commenting, “Cancun on 3” along with three more crying laughing emojis.
Lillard answered their social media slights by mocking George’s moves from Indiana to Oklahoma City and finally LA in a three-year span for a better chance to win an NBA championship.
“Keep switching teams … running from the grind,” Lillard wrote. “You boys is chumps.”
Unfortunately for those desiring an on-court resolution to this confrontation, the Blazers can only qualify for the eighth seed, which would pit them against the top-seeded Lakers regardless of what happens in the remaining regular season games. Portland still has to qualify, however, a task made more urgent following Saturday’s loss — and more bitter after the back-and-forth it produced.