'Clutch Time' Is 'Dame Time' As Blazers Edge Mavs
The 134-131 defeat sustained by the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday in the NBA Bubble in Orlando will officially go down as yet another in an abhorrent series of "clutch-time'' losses.
But unofficially, it should really count as a "Dame-time'' win.
"I ain't coming here to waste my time,'' Lillard said right after the game. "Both teams had great offensive games. It came down to who wanted it more.''
The Blazers last-second victory - built not only on Lillard's career-high 61 points but also on his last-second drawing off an offensive foul to negative what might've been a Dallas game-winning shot - locks the Mavs into the No. 1 seed in the West Playoffs. This can be a cause for celebration given the rapidity of the franchise's turnaround ... or it can be a gloomy thing, given that the Mavs seem likely to oppose the No. 2-seeded Clippers (who lead Nuggets by 1.5 games remaining in Round 1 of next week's NBA postseason.
But again, in fairness, this was about Lillard, who victimized Dallas in every possible way. He rendered Kristaps Porzingis in particular ineffective on pick-and-rolls. He stripped solid defenders like Dorian Finney-Smith of all dignity. He made jumping into defenders to draw shooting fouls into a work of art.
Who wanted it more? In the final seconds, what Lillard wanted was to find a way to stall the virtually unstoppable Dallas offense. Mavs guard Trey Burke shoveled a pass to the corner to Dorian Finney-Smith, who made the 3-pointer that might've put Dallas ahead for good ... but Burke's kept running after the potential assists, running into - guess who? - and, yeah, Lillard was credited with drawing the offensive foul that negated the shot.
“Maybe he (Lillard) will get fined for a flop,'' Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. "I don’t know.”
Said Burke: "He put his head back and fell ... I think it was a clever move on his part.''
Added Luka Doncic (25 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds): “I don't know what to say. I guess they call what they see out there. Especially on the last play, I don't think it is an offensive foul.''
The Mavs were also displeased with a late-game offensive-foul call against Porzingis that caused him to foul out, pushing his 36-point output to the bench.
But make no mistake: This was about the excellence of Dame (who scored 51 in his last outing) leading the Blazers, who will clinch a spot in the play-in series with a win Thursday against Brooklyn. Lillard's number against Dallas matches Kobe Bryant's vs.-Mavs record. His effort makes him just the second player in NBA history to score at least 60 points three times in the same regular season, joining Wilt Chamberlain.
When Luka does such all-time fabulous things, we acknowledge them. So we must with Dame. Hey, sometimes, afterward, you have to concede that the other guy was better than you.