Six years ago the Houston Rockets’ season ended on a walkoff 3-pointer by Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers, and Rockets general manager Daryl Morey still remembers how he felt that day.
Under normal circumstances we’d all be glued to the NBA playoffs, as they start in April and occupy the entire month of May, before the NBA Finals consume our attention in the early days of June. Houston Rockets fans have grown accustomed to seeing the Rockets in the playoffs, as they’ve made seven consecutive trips to the postseason.
Although we don’t know how the remainder of the 2019-20 season will unfold due to the novel coronavirus, we all know how the Rockets’ 2013-14 season ended, as the “Dame Dolla” version of Damian Lillard was created against the Rockets. The Rockets entered the season with title aspirations, as they had constructed their own superduo in the form of James Harden and Dwight Howard, who was the biggest fish in the 2013 free agent class.
This resulted in a 54-28 record and a first round matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers, who had the fifth seed in the Western Conference. The Rockets found themselves on the ropes after the first four games, as they were down 3-1, despite having the higher seed during the regular season.
With the Rockets facing elimination in Game 5 they received help from their second unit, as Jeremy Lin came off the bench and turned in one of his better Rockets’ postseason performances, scoring 21 points on just 15 shots. This helped the Rockets stave off defeat and extend the series to Game 6, albeit back in Portland at the Moda Center.
The Rockets found themselves up 98-96 in a tightly contested game that had seen 15 lead changes up until the clock struck 0.9, which is a moment Rockets fans know all too well. Following a Chandler Parsons layup that gave the Rockets the lead, Blazers coach Terry Stotts elected to take a timeout to draw up a play that would’ve surely resulted in enough time for a catch-and-shoot opportunity, which is exactly what happened.
Six years ago today, Damian Lillard sent the Rockets packing with this incredible 3-point shot ⌚️ pic.twitter.com/wYKE0kRnrK
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 2, 2020
Damian Lillard got free from Chandler Parsons with enough space and separation to let off a 3-pointer, which was the dagger that ended the Rockets’ season. This left Rockets’ fans feeling empty, as this was an unexpected ending to a series that seemed destined to go to seven games, despite the Rockets’ early 3-1 deficit. At the time Lillard admitted to this being the “biggest shot of his life”, which should come as no surprise to anyone.
On Monday, it was revealed by former wrestler and current sports photographer Sol Neelman how Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey handled the heartbreaking defeat. Neelman said Morey couldn’t stand to watch the final play and silently turned and exited the arena alone after the game was over. If there was any doubt about Neelman’s version of events, Morey dispelled it quickly, saying that there was truth to Neelman’s account.
This is true
— Daryl Morey (@dmorey) May 4, 2020
It’s not surprising that Morey remembers how he felt six years later, as most Rockets fans also recall where they were at and what they were thinking at the time Lillard hit the walkoff 3-pointer that ended the Rockets’ season. If there’s a silver lining to it all, it’s that Lillard has now developed a reputation for ending a team’s season on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer, as he sent the Oklahoma City Thunder packing in a similar fashion during the 2019 postseason, although that one was released from half court.
When asked about Lillard’s shot after the game Paul George stated that it was a bad shot, but he must not have known Lillard had the ability to drain series-ending triples, as he did the exact thing to the Rockets five years before doing it yet again to the Thunder. Like all Rockets fans, Morey certainly knows.