What we’re watching right now is Damian Lillard 2.0 – The Versatility of a Modern Point Guard.
Lillard, playing without injured CJ McCollum in the backcourt, jumped in his time machine and turned himself into an old-school point guard.
On Monday night vs. Indiana, it was 30 points and 15 assists in a 106-98 win over the Pacers. On Wednesday night vs. Dallas, it was 33 points and a dozen assists in a 126-118 win over the Mavericks.
He’s getting everybody involved and shooting when the opportunity is there. He’s directing the pick-and-roll like a maestro and running his team with purpose and intelligence.
You never saw John Stockton? This is the same kind of operation over the past two games – but with a bit more flair.
“Man, he’s been playing unreal,” said Zach Collins. “It’s easy to look at the numbers, but just the way he’s leading us every single night has been great. That, in itself, is very, very impressive. I don’t care how good you are, what caliber of player you are, to do it every night like he does is amazing”
And Collins spoke to the way his captain has tweaked his approach to the game without his backcourt mate.
“Yeah, I think it’s a credit to him knowing the game and knowing what he needs to do,” Collins said. “It’s easy to say with CJ out, he comes out and takes 30 or 35 shots, but he’s a true point guard. He gets guys involved. We all love playing with him because we know at some point we’re probably going to touch the ball. He continues to make the right play.”
Coach Terry Stotts talked about the way Lillard orchestrated the game.
“I thought it was another very special night by Damian,” Stotts said. “I thought he pretty much controlled the game from our standpoint. He took advantage of his scoring opportunities. Had another great night passing.”
Lillard was 8-of-16 from the floor and that included a 6-of-12 performance from three-point range and 9-of-10 from the foul line.
“I made some shots but I didn’t think I shot the ball great,” Lillard said. “I would have liked to see a few more go in. The ball felt good coming out of my hand and a lot of times I don’t look at the makes and the misses, I just think about how it felt when I was shooting the ball.”
And fewer shots for Lillard has meant more assists and more people being involved.
“Knowing with CJ out I’m going to get a lot of attention,” he said, “so coming out to start games and getting teams to expose the coverage that they’re in – how they’re guarding pick-and-rolls, how they’re guarding me off the ball, where is the help coming from? – making them expose those things early so I can try to take advantage. And try to put other guys in position to score the ball. Maybe run off eight points, and then get back to picking them apart, then run off six points – trying to attack in that way.
“So I think playing the game that way, you really don’t take that many shots. A shot is here, a shot is there, get to the free-throw line, try to attack, that’s the right play, that’s the right play.
“At the end of the game, you look up and you haven’t shot that much but the quality of your shots is higher. It’s not like you’re not scoring.”
Of course. After all, that was a 33-point night. But as Lillard said, "You’re kind of just taking what they’re giving you.”
And he took just about everything there was for him to take Wednesday night.