More often than not, it's Damian Lillard to the rescue for the Trail Blazers. He’s Portland’s All-Star, floor general, top scorer, and leader both on and off the court.
So, of course the Blazers and Rip City have come to expect a lot out of the five-time All-Star.
But Thursday night's performance in Portland's blowout win over the Minnesota Timberwolves could be even more impactful than some may expect.
Lillard went on a scoring tear and it started from the jump.
Why is this something to note? Doesn’t Lillard do that all the time?
Well, he does and he doesn’t.
Lillard allows the game to come to him.
He’s talked about that many times, but Thursday he was driving hard to the rim on nearly every possession through the first six minutes of the game.
Lillard was locked in on the basket.
And it worked.
And it was necessary.
Since the Blazers starting point guard knows there’s no time to waste in this shortened season after Portland’s inconsistent start, he was in attack mode early.
In his first four minutes of action, Lillard went 2-of-4 from the field while attacking the rim nearly every possession, which also resulted in him dishing out to his teammates in the corner.
“I think [Dame] had 15 points in the first quarter," Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts noted postgame. "At the same time, he did a really nice job with his assists getting [Jusuf Nurkic] involved. I thought he played a good floor game. He took advantage of these opportunities. Obviously, when he’s shooting the three like that, it opens up other things for him. To be honest, I think he just feels out the game and feels out his team."
Thanks to a 47-point second quarter, the Trail Blazers took a 75-56 at the break in big thanks to Lillard "feeling out the game."
He led all scores at halftime with a season-high 26.
Lillard’s offensive clinic also proved that he is not going to let what happened to his team on Thursday with the Bulls charging back after being down by 20 to the Blazers and stealing the victory.
Remember, Lillard is all about the sense of urgency right now.
“After the game against Chicago, that was a game where I really felt we should have won,” Lillard said. “We had a big lead. I felt like we were the better team. It’s a tough loss for us to take at home especially because we built up a lead the way we did."
‘I felt like a game like tonight was similar, you know, a game we feel we should win -- their best player [Karl-Anthony Towns] not playing, a pretty young team and a team that we’re more experienced then. I felt that it was a game we should win but I was like, ‘If we come out here and have a similar performance and a similar ending to what we had on Tuesday -- it’s not going to be good. I think it’s my job to recognize those moments, and to know when to be more assertive and know when to try to be more in control of the situation.”
Lillard finished with 39 points on 13-of-21 shooting while going 7-of-12 from three before sitting out the fourth quarter after the score ballooned in Portland’s favor.
An assertive Lillard is always a good thing, because that doesn’t have to mean he’s solely scoring. Lillard has shown his assertiveness and aggressiveness on that end of the court with his playmaking ability time and time again.
Like Lillard said, he knows when to pick his moments.