When you find your team down by five points and just 11.5 seconds to go in a game, a whole lot of things have to go right in a short amount of time in order to pull out a win in regulation time.
But the Trail Blazers did it Saturday night -- overhauling the Chicago Bulls with a near-miraculous 123-122 win behind six points by Damian Lillard in those final 8.9 ticks of the clock.
It was an incredible finish for a team that appeared on its way to blowing a 19-point third-quarter lead.
Those last seconds of the game deserve special attention.
Lillard knocked down a 27-foot three-point jumper to pull Portland within two points with 8.9 seconds to go. Then, after Chicago inbounded the ball, Gary Trent and Rodney Hood got a solid double-team on the Bulls’ Zach LaVine, who appeared to be waiting for the Portland players to foul him.
But Trent tied him up, resulting in a jump ball with 6.2 seconds showing on the clock. Still, a win is far from a guarantee with Trent going up against one of the most athletic players in the NBA.
But Trent got off the ground first, beat LaVine to the ball and tipped it toward Robert Covington, who managed to scrape the ball off the ground and shovel it to Lillard.
The rest was just your average, routine, Lillard step-back-jump-shot-for-the-win deal.
“That the whole sequence between, you know, Dame's really deep three, the aggressiveness of Gary Trent to go get the ball, the timing to win the tip against Zack Levine,” said Terry Stotts. “You know, it was special to come up with a loose ball, and then to make the shot. That whole sequence of events was quite remarkable, to say the least.”
Trent said, ‘Everybody knows LaVine’s athleticism. I was just trying to get my hands on the ball any way I possibly can.”
Trent had a pretty good idea that if the ball got to Lillard good things would happen. These kind of heroics used to surprise him -- but no longer.
“The first time, you know I was shocked, when I got here as a rookie,” Trent said. “”But now, at this point, it’s just like what he does. Nobody is surprised. And he’s done this time after time after time.
“So at this point, it’s just -- I knew it was going in when he shot it. We all know what he can do.”
Lillard’s long three set the whole thing up and then Trent enabled the rest to happen by first gaining the jump ball call and then winning the tip. Lillard says he always plays out the final seconds in his mind, figuring scenarios that pull out a win.
And getting the jump ball before fouling has been on his mind,
“We've been talking about that over the last couple of games,” Lillard said. “Like if we’re down, before we foul, go for a jump ball -- try to tie him up first. And GT, you know his mind was working on that play.
“And once he went to the jump circle, in my head I was like, it’s about to happen. If the ball is going into my hands I ain't gonna have much time, but like this is one of those ambitious moments that never happens. You know, it never comes to life. But this time it did. So I think because of that, it’s just gonna be special.”
Very special, particularly for a team that has already lost games after blowing double-digit leads.
Lillard finished with 44 points and got 22 from Enes Kanter -- who was dominant inside -- and 18 from Trent.