OKLAHOMA CITY — This one, at least, Oklahoma City did not lose. Instead, Damian Lilliard pried it right out of their valiant come-from-behind hands.
The best player in this series and it wasn’t very close, Lillard broke Oklahoma City’s heart at the buzzer and at just about straight up midnight, too.
Russell Westbrook had missed a driving and difficult and well-guarded attempt in the lane, giving Portland 18 seconds to go win what had already been an absolute classic, the only crime being that it came in Game 5 of the opening round rather than Game 7 of the finals.
Lillard wasn’t taking any chances. He was going to let the game go into overtime or he was going to win it with a bomb. And, as the clock ticked below a single second remaining, he stepped back from a lunging Paul George, let fly from 37 feet away, and hit his bomb.
Portland 118, OKC 115.
One moves on and one goes home.
What had looked a whole lot like Games 2 and 4 — with the Thunder taking a nine-point second half edge only to trail by nine late in the third quarter — had its script flipped when OKC caught fire in the final moments of the third quarter.
A Lillard 3 — giving him exactly half of the Blazers’ 84 points to that moment — forged Portland’s nine-point edge 3:28 before the fourth quarter began.
Yet, from that point, Oklahoma City went on an epic 30-6 run, culminating in a Dennis Schroder 3-pointer with 7:45 remaining, that put it on top 105-90.
The craziness wasn’t over.
After Maurice Harkless and Jerami Grant traded baskets, Portland closed on its own epic 26-8 run, punctuated by Lillard’s 3 from real estate typically only tilled by Norman’s own Trae Young.
Thus ends OKC’s season, it’s second straight to notch 50 victories, total, between the regular season and playoffs.
The Thunder were left for dead after a Game 4 loss at home. They did not go quietly, however, nor did they win, despite big games from both their two biggest stars.
George finished with 36 points, making 14 of 20 field goals, 3 of 8 3-pointers and 5 of 8 free throws.
He may remember the charity tosses because all the misses came in the fourth quarter.
Westbrook only made 11 of 31 and 4 of 11 from 3-point land, but also picked up his first triple double since Game 1, exiting with 29 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists.
Lillard finished with half a hundred, a perfect 50 points, on 17 of 33 accuracy from anywhere and 10 of 18 from beyond the 3-point arc.
The Thunder were good, yet he was too good.
He would not let his team lose.