Trail Blazers

Dame does it again, but credit goes to Blazers strong underdog mentality

Trail Blazers
USA Today Images

The Blazers have been here before.

They’ve been injury riddled.

They’ve faced adversity.

They’ve seen Damian Lillard take over games late.

And here we are again -- the shorthanded Trail Blazers, who entered Wednesday's game as a 3.5-point underdog, defeated the Pelicans, 126-124 to earn their sixth straight victory and improve to 18-10 on the season.

Even though New Orleans got a huge night from Zion Williamson, who hit a pair of free throws with 26.4 seconds remaining to give the Pelicans the one-point lead, the Blazers had the last word.

Or more specifically, Lillard had it with a go-ahead bucket.

Portland defeated New Orleans, 126-124, thanks to Lillard’s old-fashioned three-point play coupled with two huge stops to end the game.

 

[Subscribe to the Talkin' Blazers Podcast]

Just as Trail Blazers fans are thankful to have Lillard wear red and black and his clutch play, so is his head coach.

To win in this league you have to have great players and we’re fortunate enough to have Dame.

Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts

Or as Derrick Jones Jr. explained it postgame, “Dame is different ... He come out of nowhere at the end of quarters, end of games, not missing. That doesn't seem humanly possible to me."

Lillard recorded 43 points and 16 assists, which tied his career high in assists, while also notching his third-straight double-double.

He also became the first Trail Blazer with a 40+ point and 15+ assist game since Clyde Drexler accomplished that feat in 1986.  

He's different.

But so is this team. 

The Blazers were once again without Harry Giles (left calf strain), CJ McCollum (left midfoot fracture), Jusuf Nurkic (right wrist fracture) and Zach Collins (left ankle stress fracture).

Portland’s team captain told Trail Blazers reporter and studio host Brooke Olzendam immediately after the win that they’re having a lot of fun right now.

And it is the team’s mental toughness that Lillard credits for their most recent success.

I think we’ve been our best when we were the underdog, when we were up against it -- when adversity hits, that's when we perform our best, that’s when we come together.

Trail Blazers all-star Damian Lillard

“Since I’ve been here our strength has always been in our unity and that’s something that we cling to and in this moment that we having right now without Nurk, CJ, Zach, and Harry being banged up, [Rodney Hood] being banged up, we coming together. We not making excuses.”

And that, of course, has to do with the way that Lillard leads this squad.   

Portland now sits in the fourth spot out West.

But Coach Stotts also made a good point after the game, this is a squad that has not been on the other side of being a favorite.

 

“Over the years we have been a good underdog,” Stotts said. “We usually rise to the challenge. We haven’t really been the non-underdog, but yeah, I think like a lot of players we play better with a chip on our shoulder.”

Yes, a lot of players play better with a chip on their shoulder, but we all know not a lot of players can play with a chip on their shoulder like Lillard does.

And now, this team has acquired that same fight.