Damian Lillard has become one of the most lethal players in the NBA.
According to NBC Sports NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh, Lillard generated the fifth-most wins in the NBA while the Portland Trail Blazers are the third-most efficient offense in the league.
On Tuesday night, Lillard, in the 45th minute, delivered a legendary 37-foot three-pointer over Oklahoma City’s Paul George that proved when there’s nothing left in the tank, Lillard’s ready. The game-winning shot sealed the deal for Portland, who is on its way to the second round of the NBA Playoffs.
While Lillard was drilling shots and dropping 30-footers, the Thunder seemed puzzled on how to defend Mr. Unguardable. This used to be the way people would talk about Russell Westbrook, but according to Haberstroh, the tides have changed.
Here’s a few takeaways from Haberstroh’s latest article: How Dame Lillard and the rest of the NBA left Russell Westbrook behind
On Westbrook’s performance in the Blazers-Thunder series:
In this series, Westbrook struggled to get to the rack and finish at a high level. He missed over half his layups, making just 48.8 percent of his shots at the rim (league average is about 60 percent). Westbrook finished with zero dunks in the series and his transition efficiency ranked dead-last among players with at least 20 transition plays, per NBA.com tracking. Normally, we could chalk that up to small sample size, but Westbrook ranked last in transition efficiency in the regular season among the 27 players with at least 250 transition plays. This is more than a blip.
On what’s changed in Westbrook:
He’s dunking less, getting to the foul line less and missing more layups than he makes. These are all the markings of a player either in decline or in the wrong era, perhaps both. George’s arrival was supposed to weed out Westbrook’s most inefficient shots and make him more effective. But the opposite has happened: George’s efficient shot has only made Westbrook’s weaknesses more glaring.
On how Lillard and Westbrook differ:
Lillard doesn’t overwhelm with his size. In fact, he was equally inefficient at the rim as Westbrook, shooting 47.4 percent on his 38 attempts in the restricted area. But Lillard has a counter.
The difference is that Lillard has put in long hours behind closed doors and developed a knockdown jumper in case he can’t get to the rim as easily as he used to. In this series, Lillard made 48.1 percent of his 3-pointers and was a mind-numbing 10-of-15 from 28 feet and beyond. It’s something you can’t readily defend, as George found out the hard way.
Lillard was facing a nearly impossible task there in the closing seconds: Find a good shot against George. These moments are extremely difficult to begin with. Potential go-ahead shots in the final 10 seconds in the last give postseasons have gone in only 26 percent of the time (17-of-64), according to data from Basketball Reference. That was the baseline from which Lillard was working. Out of nowhere, he created a shot he has made nearly 40 percent this season.
On Lillard ushering in a new generation of players shooting from 30-foot-plus:
Lillard’s long-range jumper serves like David’s slingshot in a game of goliaths. With diminutive ball-handlers like Lillard, Trae Young and Stephen Curry bombing away from deep, it’s easy to see how this might be the future of the NBA. This season, a record-breaking total of 1,008 shots were taken from 30 to 40 feet, up from 860 from last season and nearly double the total of 525 from 2016-17, per Basketball Reference.
Read full story here.
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