Portland, Ore. • Damian Lillard always admired Brandon Roy for his ability to make game-changing shots. Now the second-year Trail Blazers point guard is making the game-changers of his own.
Lillard hit a 3-pointer as time expired to send Portland to the Western Conference semifinals with a 99-98 Game 6 playoff victory over the Houston Rockets on Friday night. It was the first buzzer-beating shot to win a playoff series since John Stockton’s 3 that led Utah over Houston in the 1997 Western Conference finals.
"I’ve got a lot of confidence it myself," Lillard said. ‘When you have a team full of guys that you know have the same confidence in you when the ball is in your hands, and they’re constantly encouraging you because they believe in you, it makes it that much easier."
The shot — which propelled the Blazers out of the first round for the first time in 14 years — was being hailed Saturday as one of the greatest ever for the Blazers. It drew comparisons to Roy’s memorable winning 3-pointer against the Rockets in a 2008 regular-season game.
"I saw it fall in the net and I was like, ‘Wow, that was an unbelievable shot,’" Roy said at the time about the 30-footer. "It was a blessing from above."
Roy also staged one of the biggest comebacks in the team’s playoff history against Dallas in 2011, when he scored 18 fourth-quarter points and the Blazers erased a 23-point deficit for an 84-82 first-round victory.
Roy played for the Blazers from 2006-2011. He was the Rookie of the Year and made the All-Star team three times before trouble with his knees forced him into early retirement. Roy attempted a comeback with the Minnesota Timberwolves the next season but eventually his knees drove him from the game.
LaMarcus Aldridge was on the court for both buzzer-beating 3s.
"He’s definitely in the Brandon Roy category for me," Aldridge said. "Brandon’s shot and his shot were very similar. Contested, at the buzzer, and from deep. You have to put that shot and his shot up there together."
Lillard also was the Rookie of the Year after the Blazers took him in with the sixth pick in the 2012 draft out of Weber State.
Lillard averaged 20.7 points and 5.6 assists in the regular season his sophomore year with the team and became the first player to participate in all five events connected to the All-Star game — the Future Stars game, the skills challenge, the 3-point shootout, the dunk contest and finally the All-Star game itself.
"I was a huge fan of B-Roy. I’m always on YouTube watching Steve Francis, Allen Iverson, B-Roy, guys like that," Lillard said. "I’d seen the shot, I think it was against Houston, too. It was a huge shot. From almost the same spot."
Up 3-2 in the series and playing on home court, it appeared that the Blazers were headed back to Houston when forward Chandler Parsons scored on a reverse layup with 0.9 seconds left to give the Rockets a 98-96 lead.
On the ensuing inbound, Nicolas Batum passed to a streaking Lillard, who squared up from 25-feet out and sank the 3. The shot was midway to the basket when the buzzer sounded.
"He made a hell of a shot," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said.
"He lives for those moments," Blazers coach Terry Stotts added. "It’s remarkable. It was a remarkable shot."
In the frenzied postgame celebration at the Moda Center, Lillard grabbed the microphone from the public address announcer and screamed "Rip City!" The phrase was coined by former announcer Bill Schonely in the team’s first season in Portland and stuck. It’s been a theme for the Blazers in the first round.
Portland, making its first playoff appearance since 2011, had been eliminated in the first round in its last six trips, and hadn’t advanced to the second round since 2000.
The Blazers will face the winner of the series between San Antonio and Dallas. The Mavericks forced a deciding Game 7 with a 113-111 victory Friday night. It is one of five first-round playoff series that have gone to seven games.
Portland won its lone NBA championship in 1977.
"This city’s been waiting for this type of moment, this night, for a long time," Aldridge said following the game. "They’re probably still cheering in their cars and at their houses. This city loves basketball.
"To give them this type of series and a shot like that to end it — they love it. They’ve been behind us the whole season. They believed in us."
Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.