One of the most disappointing nights of C.J. McCollum's stellar career ended in frustratingly fitting fashion.
With the Trail Blazers down three and the double-overtime game clock winding toward 10 seconds left, McCollum caught a deflected cross-court pass from Damian Lillard and attacked. But the unexpected flight of the ball disoriented McCollum, pushing him farther up the floor to execute his show-and-go past Michael Porter Jr.
McCollum heard a whistle as he pushed off his right foot, putting his hands on his head in disbelief as the official pointed the other way. His turnover was immediately confirmed by replay review.
McCollum owned his mistake after Portland's heartbreaking Game 5 loss.
"I have to watch it again, but he deflected the ball and it kind of threw me off. It was a poor turnover by me down the stretch of a crucial game," he said. "Gotta be better; can't do that down the stretch of games. So that's on me."
Unfortunately for McCollum, that was just the last misstep in a 50-minute performance full of them. He needed 22 shots to score 18 points overall, missing all five of his field goal attempts after regulation and also committing three personal fouls.
Lillard, to be clear, didn't get much help from any of his teammates on Tuesday. He had six of Portland's seven baskets in the extra sessions, and dug the Blazers out of an early 22-point hole that was the result of shoddy team-wide defense.
"It's a shame we wasted one of the best performances you'll probably see in the playoffs by not getting off to a good start, not defending and not bailing him out," McCollum said. "We had some great looks. A lot of corner threes."
Portland, now down 3-2 to Denver, has been in this exact position before: In 2019, when the Blazers took the last two games of the series against the Nuggets to advance to the Western Conference Finals.
McCollum, remember, dropped 37 points on the road in Game 7, propelling his team to victory on a night Lillard struggled. Could history repeat itself two years later? No matter how Lillard plays going forward, McCollum is counting on it.
"Me specifically, I have to be better for this team and for him, and I will be," he said.