The Portland Trail Blazers have won six in a row during their latest winning streak, thanks to sharpshooting from Damian Lillard. “Dame” put the Blazers on his back once again and carried them while backcourt mate CJ McCollum recovers from a foot injury.
The Trail Blazers (18-10) are 9-2 in their last 11 games and moved into the #4 spot in the Western Conference playoffs. With 18 wins, only five teams have won more games, including the Utah Jazz, LA Lakers, LA Clippers, Philadelphia 76ers, and Brooklyn Nets.
Lillard moved into third in NBA scoring with 29.8 ppg. He’s has been on a heater, averaging 32 ppg over his last 17 games since McCollum went down. During that stretch, Dame scored less than 26 points four times, and the Blazers went 1-3 in those sub-optimal games. So far, the Blazers letting Lillard loose is a winning formula.
After a sensational NBA bubble, Lillard started the season in the passenger seat while McCollum jumped out to a sizzling start with a career-high 27.6 ppg. When McCollum returns, the Blazers could compete with the elite teams in the West like the Jazz, Lakers, and Clippers.
Usually landing on the cover of a video game ends up jinxing a player. However, there’s no hex with Lillard after Dame landed on the cover of NBA 2K21.
Lillard recently lit up the New Orleans Pelicans for 43 points and 16 assists, including a devastating dagger to seal a 2-point victory.
Half-Court Range for Lillard
Let’s put it this way, if the NBA ever installed a 4-point shot, Lillard would easily lead the league in 4-point shooting. He doesn’t hesitate by pulling up for 30-footers. Dame knocks down 35-footers with unbelievable proficiency for the Blazers.
“It’s on purpose to make it more difficult to defend me,” explained Lillard.
Last season, Lillard connected on 54 treys from 30-plus feet, or more than twice as many as Trae Young, who knocked down 25 deep balls. Lillard shot 41.5% from way downtown, versus 22.9% for the rest of the NBA.
When Dame heats up, he’s impossible to guard. How do you defend someone who wants to chuck shots from the cheap seats?
Can’t Guard Dame
If you try to stick with Lillard when he passes midcourt, he’ll call out for a high pick-and-roll and blow by both defenders. If you slump off a step in isolation, Dame will unleash a long-range dagger. He’s difficult to defend in transition, and deadly at the end of quarters.
Nothing can equate to Dame’s superpowers in crunch time. No one has been a more reliable shooter than Lillard the last few seasons. This season alone, the Blazers are 12-3 in crunch-time situations thanks to Lillard’s alligator blood by averaging 63% from the floor, 59% from 3-point range, and a perfect 100% from the charity stripe.
Stat of the Day #59
I never do this, but yesterday’s stat calls for an immediate update given events last night.
Damian Lillard in clutch time this season:
– 82 points, best in the league
– 63/59/100 shooting splits
– plus-43 in 57 minutes
– 12-3 record https://t.co/eXBdTBarPI
— Zach Kram (@zachkram) February 18, 2021
Rip City on Deck: Wiz, Suns, Nugs, Lakers
The Trail Blazers should continue their winning streak with a game this weekend in Portland against the Washington Wizards (9-17), the second-worst team in the East.
The Blazers and their winning streak will be contested during three road games against playoff-bound Western Conference foes, including the Phoenix Suns (17-10), Denver Nuggets (15-13), and LA Lakers (22-8). Lillard squaring off against Devin Booker, Jamal Murray, and LeBron James will be fun games to watch next week.
The Blazers head into the All-Star break with three home games against two losing teams, including the Charlotte Hornets (13-15), Golden State Warriors (16-13), and Sacramento Kings (12-16).