Damian Lillard says he wasn’t playing through pain in his return, just 'could've shot the ball much better'

Damian Lillard says he wasn’t playing through pain in his return, just 'could've shot the ball much better'

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."

The transformation of Damian Lillard to Dame D.O.L.L.A.

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The transformation of Damian Lillard to Dame D.O.L.L.A.

Damian Lillard is having a record setting week as the Trail Blazers floor general. He’s averaging 44 points in his last four games.

But, let’s pause for a moment on his basketball game and appreciate his rap game.

Lillard has released Chapter Six of the Adidas Hoops documentary series on YouTube, which focuses on himself as a rap artist.

The Trail Blazers All-Star starting releasing the seven-part series of The Damian Lillard Story back on December 12th with Chapter One titled, ‘Dame Time’ which is centered around Lillard’s clutch mindset.   

Fast Forward to Chapter Six and fans get an inside look of how a young Lillard was spitting bars back in his high school days of AAU basketball. 

Rapping was a way for Lillard’s AAU team to come together. It was a way to bring teammates closer.

Lillard discussed the difference between his game on the court and his rap game.  

The way I play is more like a silent assassin. Like I come to play, I come to take people out, but I don’t say a whole lot. I don’t talk trash and I’m just trying to like, take the life out of whoever I’m playing against - like at every opportunity I get. -- Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard  

But, when Lillard becomes Dame D.O.L.L.A. and steps in the recording studio, things change.

“As an artist I’m like, ‘yeah, I am quiet on the court, and I don’t talk trash, and I don’t try to pretend like I’m just the toughest person in the world,’ but then when I’m rapping I’m like – yeah, I’m really from the neighborhood. I really grew up around people that’s really out here living a hard life.”  

Lillard says he allows his music to show that there is more to him than just basketball.    

WATCH the entire episode of Chapter Six here:

Influx of new officials has helped make NBA officiating even more inconsistent

Influx of new officials has helped make NBA officiating even more inconsistent

When Damian Lillard went public with his comments about officiating, and specifically, the remarks from third-year referee Ray Acosta toward him, after Thursday night’s loss to Dallas in Moda Center, it was a bit uncharacteristic.

Lillard usually does most of his complaining about calls on the court to the officials themselves, rather than to the media. Neither course is likely to be effective, however.

But I would say this in his defense, officiating in the NBA this season is at a low point and there are reasons why.

No. 1 is that due to injuries and retirements, the league is lacking experienced referees. There has been a big influx of new officials over the last few seasons. I cannot recall a time when I’ve seen so many names on the list of game officials that I’d never heard before.

I’ve talked to a few former NBA officials and they all tell the same story -- young officials are being put in positions that they aren’t able to handle, because they just don’t have enough experience. Even the crew chiefs are often unprepared for the games they are assigned.

An attempt to reach the NBA Referees Association for comment Friday morning got no immediate response.

This is one of the toughest jobs in sports and learning the craft takes time. It isn’t just knowing what to call, it’s knowing what not to call.

And then there is the whole problem of handling emotional situations on the court with players and coaches.

It’s tougher these days than it used to be, too, because it’s obvious referees’ powers to control the combatants have been taken away. I’m seeing coaches and players get away with behavior on the court that surely would have brought ejection and/or suspension a few years ago. Technical fouls are becoming rare these days.

Coaches routinely wander 5-10 feet onto the court during live-ball situations to complain about calls or non-calls and players seem to whine about every call.

With no penalty in most cases.

I think that comes from the league office, which has gone soft on the players and coaches. But my goodness, the officials of yesteryear could not have functioned in an environment like the one today.

Compound the difficulty of officiating in the NBA with the pressure of calling the game differently from player to player, and you have an impossible job.

Frankly, LeBron James and James Harden and other perceived superstars play under a different set of rules than the average player. Rookies -- unless they are anionted as future saviors of the league, such as Zion Williamson -- get NO calls. But watch, Williamson will soon get away with traveling on offense and assault and battery on defense before the whistle blows, just because of who he is.

He is being perceived as the next Lebron so you aren’t going to see him get tagged with the kind of phantom calls that you might see whistled on the likes of Nassir Little.

The game is called differently in the final quarter than it is earlier (try to get a defensive three-second call in the final minutes of a tight game!) and called differently in the playoffs than in the regular season. Then there is the old cliche of referees not wanting to decide a game in the waning moments by making a call -- when, in fact, they decide games by NOT making calls.

How in the world are inexperienced officials supposed to know how to do their job amid all the inconsistency?

Frankly, they don’t.

Back in starting role, Trevor Ariza is hungry to win

Back in starting role, Trevor Ariza is hungry to win

It’s a new beginning for forward Trevor Ariza and it showed Thursday night.

Ariza got the starting nod in his Trail Blazers debut with Portland hosting the Dallas Mavericks.

In his debut, Ariza got right to work, scoring a season-high 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting.

Following the game, he gave credit to being back in the starting role after coming off the bench in Sacramento.

“That’s what I’ve been used to,” Ariza said. “So, when I’m back in my natural habitat I just try to play the right way and hopefully things work out.”

But, even with his season-high to go along with seven rebounds, two assists, and two steals on the night, Aria was not pleased because his new team didn’t get the win as Dallas rolled to a 133-125 victory.  

“I’m more of a ‘I like to win guy’ rather than how I play. So, it means nothing, because we didn’t win,” Ariza said.

It didn’t take long for Ariza to get a shot that he liked from deep.

Yet, after missing his first three, Ariza hit his next four. The 34-year-old notched 15 points through the first two quarters. 
Ariza’s first attempt came at the 9:24 mark of the first quarter, but his 25-foot three-point jumper was long and clanked off the back iron. 

Ariza was the Blazers second leading scorer on the night.  

And even if he himself wasn’t going to say he was happy with his debut performance, his teammates and coaches were.

“I thought he was terrific. Obviously in the offense, he can make shots, I thought he gave great effort, he had a tough assignment, but I thought he is a welcomed addition. I think it’s pretty obvious he knows how to play and he’s going to help us,” Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said postgame.

While Damian Lillard, who once again put the team on his back finishing with 47 points, spoke highly of Ariza fitting in nicely.  

I thought he played really well. He was flying around, he was active, he made shots, he was aggressive on the offensive end as well. For his first game, I thought he had a pretty good performance. – Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard on Trevor Ariza’s debut 

Ariza admitted he had a tough time with the offensive sets, but getting used to the vocabulary of the Blazers plays will take time.

“I felt pretty normal once I got on the court. I was a little confused about what we were doing, but once Coach Stotts talked to me, he told me -- go out and play, my teammates told me -- go out and play, so that’s what I was trying to do,” Ariza said.

“I’m trying to get use to hearing new calls for the same plays everybody else runs. I probably know about five plays right now,” Ariza added.

He may only know a handful of plays at the moment, but Ariza believes in this group despite Portland falling to 19-27 on the season.

“I think this is a talented group that is injured. That’s probably why they brought me in. They have a lot of injuries, but they’re pretty resilient. They’ve been fighting every game, playing hard every night, so hopefully playing hard -- and winning, we’ll figure it out,” Ariza said.

One thing is certain: Ariza and Lillard have mutual respect for one another.

The newest Trail Blazers had nothing but praise for his point guard.

When you’re playing against him it’s like ‘this little dude is hitting everything.’ Playing with him, since it’s my first time getting a chance to be teammates with him on the court it’s like, ‘damn, he’s really hitting everything.’ That’s what he does. When you need a bucket, you’ve got a bunch of them around here.” – Trevor Ariza on Damian Lillard  

Carmelo Anthony, who finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds in the losing effort, gave props to his fellow veteran.

“Anytime you get traded to a new team, a new situation, you rely on your skill, your talent, but also, in his case -- his experience, just playing basketball. Playing against Portland for so long, just trying to find his way, his experience got him through. And the way that he played, he played hard and that’s his game, that’s who he is,” Melo said.

Now, hopefully Ariza can turn "liking to win" into actually winning with the Trail Blazers, which is exactly what this team needs.

Blazers, Mavericks show you what the evolution of the NBA game looks like

Blazers, Mavericks show you what the evolution of the NBA game looks like

If you are curious about the evolution of NBA basketball, Thursday night’s game in Moda Center was for you.

Dallas’ 133-125 win over the Trail Blazers was the template for what analytics have done to the game.

These days, the smart guys have figured out that the shots that carry the most value are three-pointers, free throws and layups or dunks.

Thursday’s game tied the league record for most threes (43) made in a game. But the analytics go even deeper than that.

Dallas had 50 points in the paint, 15 free throws and scored 66 points on threes. In other words, that’s 131 of the Mavericks’ 133 points. Portland had 46 points in the paint, 63 points off threes and 12 free throws -- 121 of its 125 points.

So much for mid-range jump shots, huh?

“Never thought I’d see this many threes in a game,” said Carmelo Anthony, a veteran in his 17th NBA season. “But that’s the way it is.”

The Mavericks jumped out to an early lead in this one, thanks to a 45-point first quarter, and never looked back. Every time the Trail Blazers mounted some sort of rally, Dallas was able to counter by shredding the Portland defense for a shot near the basket, an offensive rebound or a wide-open three.

Damian Lillard followed up his 61-point game with another big one, getting 47, thanks to 8-15 shooting from the three-point line.

But Lillard was miffed after the game. And during the game. And after the game, he talked about it -- succinctly.

Lillard was assessed a technical foul by Ray Acosta with 13 seconds to go, while Lillard was on his way to the bench after being removed from the game.

“It’s just frustrating, man,” Lillard said. “I mean, it’s a fast game -- a tough game to call. But there was a play at the end of the game, four minutes to go and I go up for a reverse layup and guy just smacked me in the head.

“The whole game, I’m telling them, ‘They’re putting their hands in my chest. They’re pushing me in the back, they’re riding me. All the things we get whistled for, they’re doing them to me.

“They’re trying to stop me -- they’re being physical, they’re trying hard. Just look for the contact because it’s there.”

Lillard was asked what he said to draw the technical.

“Like I said, we were down 13, I was doing a reverse layup and the guy smacks me in the head, the referee is right there. And I asked him, ‘How do you not make that call?’ and he tells me, ‘We all agreed that you leaned into him.’

“That’s an insult, man. I leaned into him? He smacked me in the head. Come on, man, that’s frustrating as hell when somebody smacks you in the head and you get that kind of explanation.

“I went right up to him and said, ‘If you say you didn’t see it, that’s one thing. They say that all the time. But you can’t tell me ‘All three of us agree that you leaned into him and i’m doing a reverse layup. I don’t have time to lean back while I’m looking at the basket. Don’t insult me like that -- just say 'I didn’t see it.'”

Lillard’s game spoke for itself, regardless of the officiating. But Dallas Coach Rick Carlisle spoke plenty about Portland's star guard.

“I have one statement to make: Before the game I tried to pass a note to the locker room to tell Damian Lillard he had my All-Star vote, so he didn’t play the game,” Carlisle said. “Obviously, he didn’t get the note, but he had my vote before he went for 47 against us. What an amazing player. He’s virtually impossible to stop. He’s got an iron will. Obviously a great leader and when he’s on the floor they’re hard to beat, no matter what.”

 

Luka Doncic thrown off that Damian Lillard wasn't an All-Star starter

Luka Doncic thrown off that Damian Lillard wasn't an All-Star starter

With the way Mavericks point forward Luke Doncic has been dominating the 2019-20 season, it’s no surprise he was named a Western Conference All-Star starter Thursday night ahead of Dallas' game vs. Portland. 

About four hours before the Trail Blazers and Mavericks tipped off, the All-Star starters were announced.  

The Western Conference All-Star starters includes:

  • LeBron James
  • Anthony Davis
  • Kawhi Leonard
  • James Harden

And then of course, Doncic rounds out the top-five.

If it weren’t for Doncic, it would’ve been Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard to slip into the starting spot.

Last year’s Rookie of the Year is putting up CRAZY numbers. This season, he’s averaging 29.1 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 9.0 assists.  

But, somehow he still can't believe Lillard isn't starting alongside him. 

After the Mavs beat the Blazers, 133-125, Doncic was asked if he had a conversation with Lillard.

He did.

But the newly named All-Star admitted he was confused by the results. 

Yes, he congratulated me. He’s an amazing player and that just means a lot to me. It’s weird not seeing him in the starters. – Mavs All-Star Luka Doncic on Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard

At just 22 years old, Doncic holds the honor of being an All-Star starter in high regard.

He even said it felt different for him out on the court knowing he was heading to his first All-Star game.

“It does-- I used to wake up every year for that to watch the game. My mom used to say 'you have to do your homework' if I want to wake up early. It’s different, but it’s something that is really special.”

Doncic isn’t the only one bewildered by the All-Star starters results.

Lillard’s former teammate Meyers Leonard voiced his concern on the matter, calling it "asinine."

Just imagine how many people would be sharing this same sentiment of it being asinine if Lillard didn’t make it as an All-Star reserve.

Lillard has been doing everything in his power to keep the injury riddled Blazers afloat. He’s averaging 27.9 points, 7.6 assists, and 4.1 rebounds this season and 33 points per game since January 3rd.

The All-Star reserves will be announced on Thursday, January 30 where Lillard is poised to be named an All-Star for the fifth time.

The cloud that hangs over Damian Lillard's incredible scoring performances

The cloud that hangs over Damian Lillard's incredible scoring performances

Damian Lillard has been scoring at a masterful clip over the past month. 

He didn't necessarily come out hot in 2020, scoring just 11 points in a losing effort to the New York Knicks, but since then, he's averaging 33 points in the month of January.

On Monday, Lillard scored a career-high 61 points and broke his own franchise record and career-high with 11 three pointers made.

To follow-up that performance, the Trail Blazers franchise player, who is expected to be named an All-Star for the fifth time, dropped 47 points, eclipsing the century mark, becoming the first-ever to score more than 100 points in Trail Blazers history.

To add to his unbelievable run, he joined elite company in doing so...

Lillard's run has truly been impressive.

But, there's one thing that mars such a feat... the Blazers record during that process. 

Lillard has averaged 44 points per game in his past four performances, and the Blazers have lost three of them. 

Portland lost to the Dallas Mavericks 133-125 Thursday night to fall to 19-27 on the season. This is the second time this season the Trail Blazers have been eight games below .500. 

The Blazers are ranked 26th in defensive rating this season. They have the worst assist ratio in the league. 

Of course, more goes into it than that, but what's going on now is a far cry from where the team was at a year ago.

Lillard's performances come on the heels of the Trail Blazers losing yet another player to injury. Shooting guard CJ McCollum went down on January 17th vs. the Mavericks in Dallas, so Lillard has stepped up and poured in the points. 

Portland's only win since McCollum went down came in overtime where Lillard had to set career-highs and franchise records. 

The Trail Blazers are depleted. They've played injured. They've played sick to the point where Gary Trent, Jr. had to get IV treatment for flu-like symptoms. They played even more short-handed after taking two players (Bazemore and Tolliver) out of the equation because of Portland's trade with Sacramento. 

Lillard shouldered the load and he delivered. But, he seems to be growing more and more frustrated, which has boiled over into technical fouls and referee criticism. 

But, perhaps, Lillard is projecting about a much larger issue. A team with the second-highest payroll that went to the Western Conference Finals is now in serious danger of not being able to crawl out of this hole. 

"[Dame] didn't sign up to be on a team like this," Yahoo! Sports Senior NBA Insider Chris Haynes told NBC Sports National NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh in a podcast interview. 

Wednesday marked a possible turning point for the Trail Blazers on the injury front. Jusuf Nurkic, who has been rehabbing his ankle since last March, participated in a full contact practice. Zach Collins, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, was engaged in individual workouts. So was CJ McCollum, who sprained his ankle last week. 

Hopefully, the reinforcements will arrive and the Trail Blazers can turn this season around.

Damian Lillard can't keep doing this all on his own!    

Instant Analysis: Mavericks weren't horsing around from three vs. Blazers

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Instant Analysis: Mavericks weren't horsing around from three vs. Blazers

The Trail Blazers and Mavericks squared off for the second time in less than a week.

But, the lineups looked a bit different this time around.

Thursday night, Portland was without CJ McCollum, who had sprained his left ankle early in the second quarter in Dallas last Friday night. The Blazers also traded away Kent Bazemore and Anthony Tolliver to Sacramento. With the trade now official, Trevor Ariza got the starting nod Thursday.

For Dallas, the Mavs were without Kristaps Porzingis last week when they hosted the Blazers, but Porzingis was back in the starting lineup Thursday.

Dallas started the game 10-for-15 from the field.

The Mavs were able to jump out to a 45-37 first quarter lead thanks to their efficient three-point shooting.  

At the break, the Blazers were shooting 55.8 percent from the field to the Mavericks’ 53.8 percent, but with Dallas’ hot shooting from deep, the Mavs held a 78-63 halftime lead. 

The Mavericks biggest lead on the night was 25. Down the stretch, Portland wasn't able to get enough stops even though they hung within 10 points for most of the fourth quarter. 

FINAL BOX SCORE: MAVERICKS 132, TRAIL BLAZERS 122

Here are three quick takeaways from Thursday's loss: 

1.  SO MANY MAVS 3s

From start to finish Dallas was taking its chance from behind the arc.

The Mavericks came out firing from long distance. Dallas went 10-of-16 from three in the first quarter. The Mavs did cool off a bit from deep in the second quarter. However, in the second half, they picked up where the left off early in the game. Dallas finished the game 22-of-47 from three-point range. Luke Doncic went 2-for11 from three. This season he is averaging three three-pointers a game. Thursday night, it was  Seth Curry Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr. who led the Mavs from three.  

2.  Ariza, Biggie make their debut

It didn’t take long for Trevor Ariza to get a shot that he liked from deep. 

Ariza’s first attempt came at the 9:24 mark of the first quarter, but his 25-foot three-point jumper was long and clanked off the back iron.

After missing his first three, Ariza hit his next four. The 34-year-old notched 15 points through the first two quarters.  Ariza was the Blazers' second leading scorer on the night.  

Caleb Swanigan also made his debut. In his return back to Portland in a Trail Blazers uniform, fans cheered as he entered the game with 3:41 remaining in the first quarter.  Biggie still looked a little out of sorts on the offensive end, but he finished with two points, five rebounds, and two assists in 22 minutes of action.

3.  Lillard's takeover not enough this time

Damian Lillard was looking to keep pace with the Mavericks in the three-pointers made department. After knocking down his first three three-point attempts in his first three minutes of action, Lillard went on a tear from long range. He went 8-for-15 from three and shot 16-for-28 overall. Lillard’s 47 points on the night was not enough. Lillard is coming off a 61-point game in Monday's win over the Warriors.

Up Next: Portland will host the Indiana Pacers on Sunday night in game three of their current four-game homestand. The Blazers and Pacers tip-off at 6:00p.m. on NBC Sports Northwest and the MyTeams app.

Check back throughout tonight and tomorrow for more articles and videos from the players!

Damian Lillard accomplishes something no Trail Blazer has ever accomplished

Damian Lillard accomplishes something no Trail Blazer has ever accomplished

Damian Lillard is superhuman!

One game after scoring a career-high 61 points, while breaking his own record for three-pointers made with 11, Lillard remained hot!

With his 39th point, the Trail Blazers point guard hit the century mark, 100 points. 

That feat, scoring a combined 100 points in back to back games, is something no member of the Trail Blazers has ever done. 

Lillard finished the evening with 47 points on 16-28 shooting, making his two-game total 116 points. 

Unfortunately, the Trail Blazers lost 133-125 to the Dallas Mavericks, dropping to 19-27 on the season.

 

Jaylen Hoard has a career night with the Texas Legends

Jaylen Hoard has a career night with the Texas Legends

Jaylen Hoard has had an up and down season for the Blazers, literally.

The two-way player has been called up and had numerous stints with the Blazers, and has been sent back down numerous times to play with the G-League's Texas Legends. 

In fact, the Blazers sent Hoard back down to the G-League on Wednesday. 

On Thursday, his first game back with the Legends, Hoard exploded. 

Hoard had a career night, scoring 34 points and pulling down 12 rebounds in the Legends' 144-140 victory over the Oklahoma City Blue. 

Hoard played his college ball at Wake Forest, as did Oklahoma City Thunder star Chris Paul.

With the Thunder on an off night, the former Demon Deacon star was on hand to support a fellow Wake Forest alum. 

Hoard has averaged 2.7 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 0.3 assists in 12 games with the Trail Blazers this season. In the G-League, he has averaged 18.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.9 assists with the Legends prior to tonight's outburst.