Nikola Jokić scored 38 points in a timeless outing of their own.) Dame wear a performance that apparently united every NBA fan in the world whilst attracting the Blazers all the way back from a 22--point deficit to force the two additional periods. Lillard hit a pair of deeeeeeep threes--one to send the game to overtime, and another to send the match to double OT that had me hurling expletives in my tv in utter amazement. Maybe I'm still coming to terms with the feelings Lillard had me feeling throughout his outburst, but Dame's display of brilliance cemented to me his status regardless of how this playoff run or prospective ones wind up--he is a winner.
It is difficult to think of players who believe as inevitable as Lillard, even in a universe where LeBron, Steph and KD exist. Sometimes Lillard enters planes of existence that make you think it's not possible for him to miss. There was never a second I thought Lillard was going to strike those two game-tying threes Tuesday night, so much so I was trying to will the Nuggets into fouling him by yelling at the monitor. What is ridiculous about Lillard's explosiveness is I am not sure where to rank his double nickel among his accomplishments. This is the same man who scored 112 points over two games at the bubble to haul Portland to the postseason. (I mean, he practically ended the Russell Westbrook age at Oklahoma City.)
All of this would be to say I do not know how you're able to watch someone like Lillard and describe him as something short of a winner. Maybe he's not a generational megastar. Perhaps he's not a multi-time winner. What exhibitions of brilliance like Tuesday's show, though, is that's almost surely no fault of Lillard. He is among those very few players in the league who is never questioned in regards to clutch heroics. And that's a pretty incredible mark for someone to depart the game even if they have never won a match in a conference closing.
Lillard enthusiasts may assert he'd have a ring of their own if he combined a superteam. Maybe a Dame-Klay-KD center might have won a couple of chips, also. I'd argue it does not matter. So what if Dame isn't in precisely the exact same category as LeBron Curry, or Durant? Not being a top 10 gift of all time should not decrease what Lillard has done in his career.
The motive to bring all this up is because there will be chatter at some point--perhaps in the aftermath of the game, possibly following this series or perhaps later in the summermonths -- about whether Dame must leave Portland. If he needs to force management into somehow swinging deals for larger stars or find a true championship competition of his very own.
However, I believe Lillard has already carved out a substantial area for himself in NBA lore. He is among the sport's most celebrated cold-blooded assassins. He has stretches of dominance so ringing you inquire yourself whether he is the best player in the world even when you know that is not correct. The Blazers did not even win Tuesday and Lillard is the narrative --despite this presumptive MVP putting up a monster game of his own.
That is how visceral the Dame encounter is. Lillard may never reach the heights of a few of his contemporaries. However he doesn't require anything more than nights like Tuesday's to remind everyone that no matter how far his teams can ultimately go, Damian Lillard remains a winning participant.