Something is happening lately with Damian Lillard and it isn't good, But could Portland’s change of offensive strategy Tuesday night against Boston signal a reset for Lillard?
Over his last 12 games, including the Boston game, Lillard has averaged 22.3 points per game, while shooting 37.9 percent from the field, including 33.6 percent from three-point range.
In the prior 40 games this season, the Blazer all-star averaged 30.6 points per game, while shooting 45.6 percent from the field and 38.9 percent from three.
That is an incredible difference – huge drops in important categories. But there are reasons for it.
Lillard is facing defenses keyed to stop him, including over-playing him to keep him from getting the ball and then double-teaming when he gets it.
“I think it's obvious,” Lillard said Thursday. “I don't think it's that I'm not performing how I usually perform, I think it's just the teams have committed to taking away opportunities.
“I mean, the Clippers -- you see them face guarding me even on the inbound pass 94 feet from the basket. And they deny, they run guys at me.
“And for me, the proper play is to be willing to give the ball up or try to go off the ball and play off the ball.
“Our philosophy has been that when I get (the ball) out, we’ve got to make teams pay on the level to where they don't feel comfortable continuing to do it.”
That hasn’t happened lately. Teams have doubled Lillard without having to pay a price for it. Which leads to more of the same tactic.
“Obviously, it's frustrating,” he said. “I've tried to figure out ways to combat that by not just allowing them to take me out and saying all right, I'm going to give it up all the time.
“And, you know, they never loosen up and we get to the end of the game and I, for example, against Miami I was three for 10. So there wasn't much opportunity for me to do what I usually do.
“I'm just trying to try to play the right way and do what I can.”
Coach Terry Stotts shook things up against Boston by calling for fewer pick-and-rolls and getting his team back to more of a freelance, flowing offense with passing and cutting. And it seemed to work, but the Celtics weren’t focusing on Lillard as much as other teams have, either.
“It was primarily the Clipper game, and the Miami game, where both teams were very aggressive on their pick-and-roll defense,” Stotts said. “So, we really emphasized more screening, more movement, more passing, and that was very encouraging against Boston.
“The fact is, you know, we've always been a pick-and-roll team. We've had a lot of success with pick-and-roll, but we’ve got to have something to fall back on when teams are super aggressive on those.”
The remainder of the schedule will tell the tale, but the Trail Blazers have to do all they can to get their best player back on track.