PORTLAND, Ore. — The volume inside the Moda Center was enough to rattle the fillings out of your teeth.
After trailing by 15 midway through the fourth quarter of Game 5 on Tuesday night, the Blazers had staged a furious rally to climb back to within six. That’s when something magical happened. Jusuf Nurkic, who has been MIA for his team’s first-round series against the Thunder after suffering a horrific leg injury, suddenly appeared on the jumbotron, and an already raucous crowd sent the decibel levels off the charts.
His teammates would later tell reporters that he’d been watching the game on TV and couldn’t take it any longer. So he hopped in a car and made a mad dash for the arena to be alongside them at their biggest moment of the season. And though he can’t take all the credit for what transpired in that stunning, surreal fourth quarter against OKC, his surprise appearance certainly added to that aura of inevitability.
What happened from that point on now belongs to the ages, the latest and most astounding chapter in the career of a player who reached the pinnacle of his powers on the biggest stage while the world looked on. With the game tied at 115-115 and the clock ticking down its final seconds, Damian Lillard assumed his final form as “Logo Lillard” and drilled a 40-footer in Paul George’s face to launch the Blazers into the second round and complete one of the greatest individual postseason performances in NBA history.