Trail Blazers

Damian Lillard, game manager, knows when to pick the right spots

Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard
USA Today

The Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs were spending a lot of time trading missed shots Saturday night in Moda Center late in the second quarter. Neither team was doing much.

Portland had a 43-38 lead with four minutes to go in the first half and the Blazers missed two straight shots, but rebounded both of them. At that point, Damian Lillard took the game in his hands and injected a jolt of energy into his team.

He knocked down a 29-foot three-point field goal, followed it with a 25-footer and then a 26-footer. In all, three straight bombs from the outside, followed by a driving layup late in the quarter. Portland went into the halftime locker room with a 10-point lead.

And Lillard had a 21-point first half.

The Blazers blew the Spurs away in the second half and walked away with a 124-103 win.

Lillard? He took his foot off the gas a little bit in the second half, making sure Jusuf Nurkic got some good looks off the pick-and-roll and he spread the ball around to others. And he settled for 30 points when it appeared 40 would have been easy.

What we’re seeing right now, perhaps, is a more mature Damian Lillard -- a player who knows he can still take over a game when needed, but more intent than ever to make sure his teammates are involved and engaged.

 

“It's his ninth year and I think he sees the game really well,” Terry Stotts said. “He sees how the game is going and what we need from him. Obviously, I think he's on a good roll shooting the ball, has good rhythm.

“So, he feels confident with it. But the run when he hit the consecutive threes, that gave us a boost going into halftime.

“I do think that Dame’s game management has improved every year, and like I said, he’s in year nine. He does a great job with that.”

Teammates notice it, too.

“He's been doing a great job with that,” Norman Powell said. “I think that's one of the main reasons why we're playing so well -- knowing when to attack, when to find teammates in the right spots to get them going, to make a defense shift and change when he has the ball, then read the defense that’s been going at him.

“I think he's done a great job in doing that through the full 48, whether he's on the court, or from the bench, watching the game.”

The Blazer guards were big in this game. CJ McCollum finished with 27 points and Powell got 18 as the Spus seemed to grow tired of the competition after Lillard’s three threes and just kind of drifted out of the game.

Portland meets Houston Monday night in Moda.