Tuesday's NBA playoffs: Lillard drops 50, ousts Thunder with buzzer-beater
Portland, Ore. — Damian Lillard hit a 37-footer at the buzzer and finished with career playoff-high 50 points to help the Portland Trail Blazers eliminate the Oklahoma City Thunder from the playoffs in five games with a 118-115 victory on Tuesday night.
With the game tied, Lillard dribbled just inside of halfcourt near the Blazers logo and then pulled up and hit the game-winner.
Lillard waved goodbye to the Thunder bench after nailing the shot, then was promptly mobbed by his teammates. As the Thunder left the floor, Lillard circled the court, high-fiving fans.
The crowd chanted “MVP! MVP!”
Lillard had 10 3-pointers, breaking the franchise record.
Portland advances to the Western Conference semifinals to face the winner of the series between the Nuggets and San Antonio. Denver won 108-90 earlier in the night to take a 3-2 lead in that series.
It was the 12th straight road playoff loss for the Thunder, who have been eliminated in the opening round for three straight seasons.
Russell Westbrook had 29 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists for his 10th career playoff triple-double and his second of the series. Paul George added 36 points.
Lillard had 34 points in the first half alone — more than Westbrook and George had combined (32) for the Thunder — but the Blazers had just a 61-60 edge going into the second half.
The Thunder led 90-88 going into the final quarter. Westbrook hit a 3-pointer to extend the lead while Lillard took a break on the bench.
Oklahoma City went up 105-90 with 7:45 left on Dennis Schroder’s pullup jumper as Portland struggled.
Lillard’s 3-pointer pulled the Blazers within 108-103, but Westbrook answered with his own 3-pointer. CJ McCollum’s bank shot cut Oklahoma City’s lead to 113-109 with 1:39 left. Maurice Harkless added free throws to get the Blazers within two.
McCollum tied it with a jumper with just under a minute left, but George scored on the other end. Lillard’s layup re-tied it before he hit his epic 3-pointer.
McCollum finished with 17 for the Blazers and Enes Kanter had 13 points and 13 rebounds.
The Blazers stole one in Oklahoma City, winning 111-98 on Sunday. Westbrook went cold, finishing was 5 of 21 from the field for 14 points. He missed his final 10 shots. Lillard finished with 24, including 15 in the third quarter.
Portland was swept in the first round of the playoffs for the past two seasons, last year by New Orleans and the previous year by Golden State.
The Blazers last trip to the Western Conference semifinals came in 2016, when they beat the Clippers in the opening round before falling to the Warriors in five games.
The Thunder also got knocked out in the opening round for the past two seasons. In 2016, a year after missing the playoffs entirely, they went to the conference finals but lost to Golden State.
The Thunder went up 22-12 early, and George made his first six shots from the floor. Oklahoma City held a 37-29 lead at the end of the first quarter, but Lillard led all players with 19 points. McCollum got into foul trouble and headed for the bench.
Lillard’s long 30-foot 3-pointer pulled Portland within 43-39. George collected his third foul midway through the quarter after scoring 17 points.
Another Lillard 3 closed the gap to 52-50 and the Blazers pulled in front 56-55 with 1:42 to go in the half on Seth Curry’s 3-pointer. The Blazers led 61-60 at the break, led by Lillard with 34 points.
Kanter, who became Portland’s starter when Jusuf Nurkic broke his leg late in the season, was clearly having trouble with his left shoulder. He came down hard on it late in the half and cried out in pain but he started the second half.
George and Steven Adams each collected a fourth foul in the third quarter but remained in the game. Westbrook’s layup put the Thunder up 73-70. The lead was short-lived, and Portland went up 84-75 on Lillard’s fadeaway 3-pointer. Afterward he shot a look at Oklahoma City’s bench.
But the Thunder weren’t done. Westbrook hit a 3-pointer to put Oklahoma City in front 88-86 and added a basket to extend the lead.
►(At) Toronto 115, Orlando 96: Kawhi Leonard scored 27 points, Pascal Siakam added 24 and the Raptors used another stifling defensive effort to beat the Magic, winning their first-round playoff series in five games.
Kyle Lowry scored 14 points as the Raptors finished off the Magic with ease, bouncing back from a Game 1 defeat to win by double-digits in three of the next four. Toronto led by as many as 37 in the clincher, their biggest-ever margin in a playoff game.
It’s the fourth straight year the Raptors have reached the second round.
Leonard made 8 of 11 shots, including 5 of 5 from 3-point range, as the Raptors jumped on Orlando early and never trailed. Leonard also made all six of his free throws. He checked out to cheers of “MVP, MVP” with 8:05 to play and Toronto up 105-75.
D.J. Augustin scored 15 points, Terrence Ross had 12 and Aaron Gordon 11 for the Magic, who won 104-101 on Augustin’s late 3-pointer in Game 1 but never again topped 96 points against Toronto’s dominant defense, and twice finished with 85 or fewer.
►(At) Philadelphia 120, Brooklyn 100: Joel Embiid scored 23 points and had 13 rebounds and Ben Simmons added 13 points to help the 76ers rout the Nets and close out their Eastern Conference playoff series in five games.
Up next, a second round series against the Toronto Raptors, who dropped their playoff opener before winning four straight against Orlando — the same thing the Sixers did to Brooklyn.
Any late arrivals missed the defining moments of the game from a jovial Sixers team that enjoyed toying with the sickly Nets.
The Sixers stunned the Nets with a 14-0 run in front of the loudest and rowdiest packed house of the season.
Embiid again shook off a bad left knee and had six points and five rebounds in the first two minutes to chants of “MVP!” The Nets later trailed 20-2, and Simmons put an exclamation point on the stunning first quarter when he drove the paint and used a right-handed jam to make it 32-12 — with a thump of his chest for emphasis.
No starter played more than 27 minutes in a game that could have been called off after the first quarter.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson scored 21 points for the Nets, who head into the offseason after their first playoff series since 2015.
►(At) Denver 108, San Antonio 90: Jamal Murray’s 23 points led six Nuggets in double figures and Denver routed the Spurs to move within one win of their first playoff series triumph in a decade.
Up 3 games to 2, the Nuggets can wrap up the series Thursday night in San Antonio, where they won last weekend for the first time since 2012, regaining the home-court advantage.
The Nuggets, who posted the best home record in the NBA and ended a six-year playoff drought by earning a surprising second seed in the Western Conference playoffs, finally looked like the team that rolled through the regular season led by All-Star Nikola Jokic and backed up by the best bench in the league.
Jokic had 16 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists and Denver led by as many 30 points at 99-69, after which their starters took a seat.
Paul Millsap chipped in 14 points as the Nuggets’ most experienced player in the playoffs bounced back from a 4-point performance in Game 4 that ended his streak of 16 consecutive playoff games with double digit scoring.
DeMar DeRozen and LaMarcus Aldridge each scored 17 for San Antonio, but Denver dominated this one almost from the tip.