Damian Lillard kept silent and urged his team to do the same after OKC won Game 3 and talked all kinds of smack.
Lillard then made sure he had “the last word” Tuesday night, pouring in a playoff career-high 50 points and a cold-blooded 37-foot game-winning three-pointer over Paul George to send the Thunder home for the summer.
Russell Westbrook finished with 29 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists as the Portland Trail Blazers moved on to the second round with a thrilling 118-115 Game 5 victory.
“The game, the series was over and that was it,” Lillard said. “And I was just waving goodbye to them. I think after Game 3, Dennis Schroder was out there pointing to his wrist, they was out there doing all these celebrations and doing all these stuff. We kept our composure and after one win that’s what they decided to do. And we was just like, ‘OK, what we want to do is win four games.’ And then when we win those four games there’s not going to be nothing to talk about. So that’s what that was.
“There’s been a lot of back and forth, a lot of talk and all this stuff, and that was the last word. That was having the last word.”
For the Blazers, topping the Thunder is an achievement worth celebrating, especially after the disappointment of last postseason. It was the driving force for the franchise all season, getting swept in the first round — their second straight sweep — and dealing with the shock and embarrassment that came with it. Nurkic’s injury seemed as if it would derail a bounce-back season, but with Lillard rising to a new level, the Blazers overcame.
“You gotta go through some stuff,” Lillard told ESPN’s Mark Schwarz after the game. “We had some failures. Some challenges and I think I’ve had success in the postseason, and last year we had the ultimate failure. I think when you experience those things, you’re just built for it. I think that’s the first thing, and the second is just putting the time in. Everybody says they put the time in, but when everything is on the line the truth comes out. And that’s what happened tonight.”