Lillard's dramatic 3 gives Portland series win
Portland, OR (SportsNetwork.com) - It took 14 years, but the Portland Trail Blazers are finally moving forward into the second round of the playoffs.
Damian Lillard hit the dramatic 3-point shot as time expired, as Portland beat the Houston Rockets, 99-98, to win their Western Conference quarterfinal series in six games.
Chandler Parsons gave Houston the seemingly winning shot, a reverse layup off a scramble under the hoop with 0.9 seconds remaining, but the Rockets couldn't force a Game 7.
Nicolas Batum inbounded the ball to Lillard, whose shot from near the top of the arc over Parsons swished through and set off a wild celebration.
"I think he lives for those moments," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. "It looked good when it left (his hands). It was a remarkable shot."
The fifth-seeded Blazers won their first postseason set since May 16, 2000 when they beat Utah in five games in the conference semifinals. They had lost seven consecutive series.
Next up for Portland will be either the Spurs or Mavericks. That first-round series is headed for a seventh game Sunday in San Antonio.
This also marked the first time in four tries the Blazers beat the Rockets in a playoff series.
The Rockets staved off elimination with a 108-98 victory Wednesday, and seemed like they would go back to Houston for a game Sunday.
Lillard, though, came through for the final three of his 25 points. LaMarcus Aldridge had 30 points and 13 rebounds for Portland.
James Harden had 34 points and Dwight Howard totaled 26 points and 11 boards for Houston. Parsons finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds.
Even with Portland's victory, there will be a record five Game 7s in the first-round. The only two other series to end early were Miami's sweep of Charlotte and Washington's five-game win over Chicago.
Batum hit a pull-up shot from the right baseline with 39.9 seconds left to tie it at 96, but then it seemed Lillard's mistake may have cost the Blazers the game.
Harden missed a jumper and Howard couldn't get the putback to fall. The ball deflected to Lillard, who came from out of bounds under the basket. Officials ruled Lillard did not establish himself inbounds and the ball went back to the Rockets with 28 seconds left.
Harden missed a step-back jumper on the left side. The ball caromed to Portland's Robin Lopez, who was falling out of bounds trying to get possession. Parsons just happened to be in the right place at the right time, as the ball came right to him for the layup.
Out of a timeout, Lillard then took off running without the ball, clapped to signal Batum he was open and in perfect position for a catch-and-shoot. It was Lillard's only points of the fourth quarter.
"He just took off running. He got separation on the first step," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said of Lillard's speed on the last play. "Chandler just never caught up."
The shot capped a first-round series that saw three games go to overtime. At the end, a total of two points separated the clubs.
"It's the playoffs, you can't relax. When you relax that's when things happen," Howard said. "You have to always be in attack mode. You can never get back on your heels. When you do, things like this happen. It's a learning experience for a lot of these young guys on our team."
Despite giving up the game's first seven points, Houston claimed a 29-28 lead after one quarter Friday night. The Rockets were actually up by 10 in the period.
Houston won the second by an identical 29-28 count.
Aldridge and Lillard combined for 17 of Portland's 22 points in the third, but Houston still held a 79-78 edge going to the fourth.
Howard scored 13 straight points for his team in the fourth quarter, but he missed two key free throws with 1:25 left that would have expanded the lead to four points.
A short time later, after Aldridge missed a jumper, Houston's Omer Asik reached the six-foul limit with an offensive one when he grabbed Aldridge battling for rebound position.
Lopez and Wesley Matthews each had 12 points for Portland, which missed only two of 22 foul shots. Conversely, Houston was 23-of-31 ... The Rockets held a 44-34 rebounding advantage ... This is the first time since 1997 a buzzer- beater won a playoff series. Then it was Utah's John Stockton against the Rockets in the West finals ... Jeremy Lin had 11 points for the Rockets ... The Blazers honored former coach Jack Ramsay, who guided the team to its only NBA title in 1977. Ramsay died Monday after a battle with cancer.
05/03 02:18:24 ET