'Clutch Time' Is 'Dame Time' As Blazers Edge Mavs

Mike Fisher

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.''

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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.

QUOTEBOARD: What The Mavs Are Saying About Blazers Game

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.