Damian Lillard puts Russell Westbrook in tough spot

Courtesy of Wall Street Journal | Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard, right, shoots a deep 3-pointer as time expires over Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Paul George on Tuesday night. Lillard connected on the 37-foot jumper, giving himself 50 points on the night, as well as a decisive five-game series victory over the Thunder.

Adam Lindner | Sports Editor

April 25, 2019

On Tuesday night, Portland point guard Damian Lillard connected on a game-winning 3-point shot that surely rivals any NBA buzzer-beater in recent memory.

Tied at 115 each with around 20 seconds remaining in regulation, Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook missed a contested lay-up at the rim before the Blazers rebounded the ball. Lillard retrieved the rock from forward Al-Farouq Aminu before coolly striding up the court.

Dame arrived at half-court with around 13 seconds remaining, and as he dribbled near midcourt, guarded by Thunder forward Paul George, the Moda Center crowd rose to its feet.

The Blazers held a 3-1 series lead over their counterparts from Oklahoma City, victorious in each contest save for a Game 3 Thunder triumph. The series was one of the first round’s most entertaining matchups, pitting Lillard against a personal rival in Westbrook.

With the Thunder on the brink of elimination, Lillard dribbled at the top of the key, waiting for the clock to trickle down.

Seconds later, Lillard reminded everyone what time it was: Dame Time.

With a side-step 3-pointer from 37 feet out, Lillard ended the Thunder’s season in stunning fashion, relinquishing Oklahoma City into an offseason full of questions and uncertainty.

Following Kevin Durant’s departure from Oklahoma City during the summer of 2016, the Thunder are 4-12 in the postseason, including three consecutive first-round exits. During that span, Russell Westbrook has averaged a triple-double in each regular season, winning the NBA’s Most Valuable Player Award in 2016-17.

Paul George arrived in OKC during the summer of 2017 via trade, then decided to re-sign with the franchise last summer despite a belief that he wanted to play for his hometown Los Angeles Lakers. George’s commitment to the franchise was a humongous victory for OKC, and it’s scary to think about where the Thunder would be if George had skipped town after one year with Russ.

It’s worth noting that OKC doesn’t necessarily boast the most impressive supporting cast — and one that’s severely lacking outside shooting — but that doesn’t let Westbrook off the hook. Although Westbrook isn’t known for his outside shooting whatsoever, his insistence upon shooting mid-range and outside shots is visibly hurting his team. In Game 5 alone, Westbrook shot 11-of-31 from the field.

In the months following Durant’s departure, Westbrook famously posted a video of himself on Instagram singing along to Lil Uzi Vert’s lyrics, “now I do what I want.”

Following three straight seasons of incredible personal statistics and accolades, perhaps it’s time for Westbrook to take a step back and do some self-reflection.

Time isn’t on Russ’ side either, as he’s now on the wrong side of 30-years-old.

It’d be wise for Westbrook to alter his play-style in the hopes of higher efficiency ratings.

To his credit, he would be much better off with shooters situated around him.

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