CLEVELAND – After missing two straight games with back spasms, Damian Lillard made his return to the court on Saturday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Lillard was quick to explain after Saturday’s 110-104 loss how he wasn’t playing through any discomfort, but rather, he just missed shots.
“It’s not the first time I didn’t make a lot of shots,” Lillard said. “I wasn’t in pain. Obviously I haven’t played in two games.”
I think I could’ve shot the ball much better, but there’s night’s like that… I didn’t play good enough to win, I think that’s all that matters.
The Blazers All-Star point guard scored seven straight points from the 4:02 mark of the fourth quarter to the 2:33 mark, and it looked like Lillard was going to show the world his crunch-time magic once again by willing the Blazers to a comeback win.
But that was not the case this time.
We’re not trending in the way we want to be as far as winning games, and taking advantage of opportunities against teams that have the same record as us, or teams we should come in and beat, but it’s a marathon. We’ve also been 10 games under .500 before. That doesn’t mean we’re going to be successful with that again, but we’ve done it before. We’ve gone on double-digit win streaks multiple times, and I think because of those things we’re not afraid of being down.
In his first game back, Lillard shot 7-of-20 from the field, 4-of-9 from deep, and 5-of-6 from the free throw line to finish with 23 points.
Even though Lillard said he wasn’t playing through pain on Saturday night, his coach and his teammates thought he didn’t look like himself.
“We obviously could tell with some of the finishes he usually finishes, we could just tell he was laboring a little bit,” Rodney Hood said postgame. “But, you know, he decided to play, and he battled it out. He tried to go through it.”
While, Blazers head coach Terry Stotts added, “I don’t know how much he was laboring. Obviously he didn’t have the same pop, but all said and done, I thought it was a good effort.”
Portland was once again without big man Hassan Whiteside, who is dealing with right hip soreness and has now missed two consecutive games.
The Blazers now find themselves riding a four-game losing streak. And at 5-12 overall, Portland is still holding strong onto the fact that they know what needs to be fixed and they still believe they have time to right the ship.
“Y’all probably don’t want to hear it," Lillard lamented, "But, it’s such a long way to go and I think because of that it’s two things you can do – you can either pout and say we should’ve won that game or we should’ve did this or we’re not doing this.”
However, Lillard knows his team isn’t going to choose that route.
“I think our team understands that there’s certain things we aren’t doing well enough to win games, but we really do as a group believe that’s it’s going to turn around."