While Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard may have surprised many onlookers when he sized up Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George and stepped back to 37 feet, it was the shot he wanted.
As a series-winning attempt, it was a bold choice — to say the least. But he had the hot hand and the shot connected, pushing the Trail Blazers into the second round. Many would second-guess an attempt from so far beyond the three-point line, especially considering Lillard took the shot clock to the last second to allow no rebuttal.
During the postgame press conference, George had some negative things to say about the final shot in the series.
“Yeah, that’s a bad shot. I don’t care what anyone says. That’s a bad shot. But he made it. That story won’t be told, that it was bad shot. You have to live with it.”
But it was a look that Lillard has grown accustomed to over the past few years, which led to the confidence he showed to even let it fly.
Including the postseason, he has made 37 shots from at least 30 feet since 2015-16. Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry is the only player who has taken and made more in this time.
Lillard trailed just Atlanta Hawks rookie Trae Young this season but led all players in the Western Conference in total makes on shots from this deep.
However, these long looks have accounted for just 6.2 percent of his total three-point attempts over the past three seasons. For comparison, the Atlanta rookie has taken 14.5 percent of his three-pointers from at least 30 feet away from the basket. That means he isn’t relying on them but rather utilizing them when possible.
Lillard has had little trouble connecting on these incredibly difficult three-pointers. Over the past three seasons, he is shooting 37-for-122 (30.3 percent) from ridiculously long range.
That ranks better than Curry (27.8 percent) despite similar volume as well as Kyrie Irving (25.6 percent), Chris Paul (24.3 percent) and quite a bit better than James Harden (15.8 percent).
In fact, the Portland guard is currently 8-for-12 (66.7 percent) from at least 30 feet during the postseason. The most recent look, of course, was by far the most exciting. But it was not exactly something out of the blue for Lillard.