The Bucks defeated the Kings 143-142 Sunday night, as Damian Lillard hit a game winning three-point shot deep in the Fiserv Forum, adding to one of his signature “Dame Time” moments.
Not only that, but this buzzer-beater/game-winner just so happened to be Lillard’s 2,500th career three-pointer, as must be remembered, he moved to fifth on the NBA’s all-time made 3’s list earlier this season.
The Kings had a four-point lead with 12 seconds left, before Brook Lopez sank a corner three, to cut the deficit to one point, 141-140. Then after being intentionally fouled, De’Aaron Fox missed his first free throw, and made the second. Being down by two points, Lillard inbounded the ball to Lopez, taking the ball all up the court himself, and proceeded to take four dribbles before sidestepping to his left and hitting an off-balance fadeaway 32-foot deep three as the buzzer sounded.
Thereupon, the Bucks crowd erupted, with the players swarming Dame, as he pointed to his wrist to show everyone what time it was.
When asked about his signature celebration after the game, Dame says he saves that for only big-time moments, “But they’ve been telling me… I’ve had some big shots, you know at the end of some games. And they like ‘man you didn’t even tap your wrist,’” Dame stated. “If you look over the course of my career, I wasn’t every game just tapping my wrist. I do it when it’s necessary, and tonight it was necessary.”
Then while recapping the last play, Dame gave insight to what was going through his mind, “I advanced it to him [Lopez], and just took off running… I knew I wasn’t going inside of the three-point line… and I just changed direction, and went into space and that’s all I was looking for, to get into space and get a good look at the rim and I did… It was a pretty comfortable shot.”
Important to keep in mind, a “comfortable shot” for Dame might be a tough shot for anyone else. With regards to this statement, some might remember, a 2019 first-round clinching playoff series win for the Trail Blazers over the Thunder, when Paul George, who was guarding Lillard, called his famous 37-foot buzzer beater a “bad shot.”
In either case, Sunday’s game-winner is just one of many examples of why Lillard is known around the league for his late-game heroics and clutch moments, after all, this is how he got the nickname “Dame Time.”
The seven-time All-Star was asked about his limitless range following the game, “I’m never looking for a specific range to get into to feel good about the shot that I take, as soon as I get to space, usually I’m like I can make it, I think my belief in that helps me a lot in those situations.”
On a night where both the Kings (52.4% FG, 41.5% 3P) and Bucks (52.2% FG, 46.5% 3P) were each hitting their shots, this game turned out to be a back-and-forth shootout from tip-off to overtime.
DAME TIME IN MILWAUKEE ‼️ 🤯
DAME LILLARD DRILLS THE PULL-UP 32-FOOT #TissotBuzzerBeater 🚨
— NBA (@NBA) January 15, 2024
Lillard’s statline included 29 points and eight rebounds, while his matchup opponent, Fox, put up 32 points and five assists. And to highlight, both big men on each team recorded a triple-double, as Lillard’s running mate Giannis Antetokounmpo had 27 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists. And on the other side, the Kings’ Domantas Sabonis contributed 21 points, 13 rebounds, and 15 assists. Other notable performances included, Kings’ shooting guards Malik Monk, 28 points, and Kevin Heurter, 26, while Bucks’ players, Malik Beasley scored 23 points, and Bobby Portis had 22.
To point out, there was some controversy late in the game, when Kings’ head coach Mike Brown was ejected for arguing with the refs at the 9:27 mark in the fourth quarter. In fact, Brown was so heated, he had to be restrained by his player, Monk, who held his arms in hopes he would calm down.
In the postgame press conference, coach Brown elaborated on his feelings towards the referees, “They’re human and they all make mistakes,” then Brown proceeded to pull out a laptop in front of reporters. “I want to show you guys why I got kicked out of the game.” He then went on to show examples of inconsistent calls made throughout the game.
With a win tonight, the Bucks improved to a 19-3 record at home, and this was a key victory as Lillard pointed out, “They are a really good team, they can fill it up, they play fast, they give themselves a chance in every game,” Dame said. “So these are the kind of games, where you don’t want to let them slip. It’s a home game, a quality win against a good team. Second night of back-to-back… these are the ones you got to have. You get to March and April and you look back, these are the games where you are like man we let that one slip, we let this one slip, so this was a great one to have.”
The Bucks now have a 28-12 record, and are ranked second in the Eastern Conference standings. While the Kings are the sixth seed in the Western Conference with a 23-16 record.