"Dame Time" is an expression familiar to fans of the Portland Trail Blazers, and on Monday night, Damian Lillard took pains to act out the expression's meaning during the fourth quarter of Portland's 108-103 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Lillard scored 19 of his 39 points in the fourth quarter, including a stretch where he hit four straight three-pointers. When the ashes settled, a stunned STAPLES Center crowd walked out on the Lakers' first home defeat since Jan. 5. Along with snapping a nine-game home streak, the Lakers also snapped their five game winning streak after winning their previous four games on the road.
This was an odd game on several levels.
First of all, the Lakers started the game ice cold and missed 11 of their first 14 shots to fall behind by double digits within the first 10 minutes.
Thanks largely to Isaiah Thomas off the Lakers' bench, Portland only led by three points at the end of the first quarter.
Then, the second quarter provided more lackluster play from LA and the Blazers jumping out to a 14-point advantage. A couple quick three-pointers, and the Lakers had cut the deficit to six points and ended up going into the intermission only trailing by three points.
When the second half started, the Lakers seemed determined to attack. Julius Randle, in particular, began to dominate the game and gave the Lakers the lead 64 seconds into the third quarter. Back-to-back three-pointers for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and the Lakers led by 12 points seven minutes into the second half.
With 5:26 remaining in the game, the Lakers led by 11 points and looked set to cruise to their sixth straight win and 10th straight win at STAPLES Center. They had controlled the second half and maintained the right level of intensity, even if Lonzo Ball seemed off his game and Thomas struggled to find his stroke.
But then, Lillard took over the game.
The Blazers' point guard gave Portland its first lead of the quarter with a 29-foot three-pointer with 3:14 remaining in the game. It was the third three he had hit in less than a minute of game time. The 27-year-old's previous three-pointer had tied the game.
Lillard his his fourth and final three pointer with 2:22 remaining in the contest, stunning a standing sold out crowd at STAPLES Center and giving the Blazers a four-point lead. Moments later, the crowd regained its enthusiasm when Ball hit a clutch three-pointer and tied the game at 103-103 with 1:51 remaining in the game.
The Lakers did not score another point, and all five of the Blazers' winning points came from the foul line. But that hardly explains the bizarre finish.
After Lillard and Josef Nurkic combined for three free throw makes, the Blazers held a three-point edge. On the ensuing possession, Caldwell-Pope missed a layup and the Blazers took possession with 56.2 seconds remaining.
The Blazers milked the clock, and the Lakers finally got a stop when Lillard missed a step-back three pointer. Only, the point guard ended up with the rebound. After milking the clock again, Nurkic proceeded to miss at the rim, but Shahbazz Napier got his hands on the offensive rebound.
Napier got the ball to C.J. McCollum, who was fouled with 7.7 seconds to play. McCollum, who is an 84.5 percent foul shooter for his career, proceeded to miss both free throws. Randle collected the rebound and called timeout.
The Lakers now had the opportunity to tie the game with a three-pointer. Only, before the Lakers could inbound the ball, McCollum fouled Caldwell-Pope, so the Lakers got one free throw and the ball back.
Thomas, who is an 87.7 percent foul shooter for his career and had hit all eight of his free throws on the night to that point, missed the crucial free throw. So, the Lakers now had to launch a three-pointer to tie the game.
After a less than confident entry pass to center Brook Lopez, the 7-footer gave the ball to Thomas. As Thomas rose to shoot, Napier got his hands on the ball and denied the attempt.
Lopez fouled Napier, who converted both his free throws and gave the Blazers their seventh straight victory. Portland is currently third in the Western Conference.
-Randle finished with a team-high 21 points, nine rebounds, two assists and two steals and was one of only two Lakers that shot 50 percent or better. The other was Ivica Zubac, who made two of his three field goals on the night.
-Ball seemed off his game and finished with 10 points, two assists, two rebounds and two steals, which are modest numbers for the guard renowned for filling the box score. Ball did hit three of his seven three-point attempts on the night.
-The Lakers only made one more three-pointer than Portland despite attempting 14 more long range attempts. Portland finished with three players scoring in double figures, while the Lakers finished with six scorers in double figures.
-Lillard finished with 39 points, six assists and five rebounds on the night. McCollum was next in the fantasy spotlight with 22 points, five assists, five rebounds and one assist.
-Travis Wear, who is on a 10-day contract, played well for the second game in a row. The former UCLA Bruin finished the night with three blocks, six rebounds and five points in 16 minutes on 2-5 shooting from the field.