Trail Blazers six-time All-Star point guard Damian Lillard has seen it all when it comes to how teams defend him.
This season, he’s been blitzed more often than not, picked up full court, doubled and trapped. And while handling the pressure, he oftentimes is forced to also handle pain.
With nagging abdominal pain early in the season and most recently a left knee and quad bruise, Lillard continues to fight through nagging injuries.
He didn’t quite look like himself offensively early against the Miami Heat Thursday night.
Luckily for the Trail Blazers, CJ McCollum caught fire from the jump on his way to 35 points.
Following Portland’s 125-122 victory over the Miami Heat, Lillard gave a quick health update after, yet again, banging his left knee and taking a shot to the eye.
In last Sunday’s game vs. Dallas, Lillard banged knees with Josh Richardson. That was the same knee and in the same spot that he hand bruised during the Blazers Feb. 16th game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
But to aggravate the knee again against Dallas last Sunday, Lillard mentioned he was dealing with swelling and stiffness.
Thursday, it affected his explosiveness.
Lillard also explained how he also got kneed in his right knee against the Heat Thursday night, as well, getting ‘poked in the eye, elbowed in the face, it was a physical game.’
After getting out to a slow start, Lillard poured it on in the final period to help the Blazers secure the win with nine of his 22 points coming in the fourth.
And that’s because Lillard went into attack mode earning time at the free throw line. Seven of his nine fourth-quarter points came from the stripe.
Someone who has witnessed firsthand how Lillard fights through screens and takes hard hits at the rim, is Lillard’s current pick and roll partner, Enes Kanter.
In the win, Kanter finished with 18 points and 16 rebounds. He came up with key offensive boards late in the game to provide a couple of extra points and possessions.
But he credits Lillard for motivating him down low.
Kanter says that by watching Lillard play through pain, it puts him “in a fire mode.”
“I just want to go out there and just grab every rebound.”
And that’s what Kanter seemingly does.
Just one more component of Lillard's elite leadership ability.