Trail Blazers

Why Damian Lillard doesn’t shy away from being the ultimate closer

Trail Blazers

Damian Lillard likes to have the ball in his hands in clutch time.   

Whether it’s hitting daggers over Houston and Oklahoma City in the NBA playoffs or jumpers from half court in the 2021 NBA All-Star Game, the Trail Blazers guard thrives in moments when the pressure is high, and his star power is on full display.

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Before the All-Star Game tipped off on Sunday, where Lillard made his sixth appearance, he was asked about how he views closing in the NBA.

The superstar guard explained that while he knows there’s a certain level of adversity a player might face when the game is on the line, he would take that shot every time.

“I think everybody looks at closing and they say you know who made the big shot?” Lillard said. “For me, personally, I prefer to be the one to take the shot. Just because in that moment you can put your team in position to either get over the top, or the team falls short. For me, as the leader of my team, I think part of it is I’m most comfortable being the person that has to answer the question because I know I can move on from it if I don’t make the shot, or if I don’t make the play.

 

I can handle the success if I do make the shot, or the play.

- Damian Lillard

To say confidence runs through Lillard’s veins in clutch shooting situations would be an understatement. This season, when the game is within five points in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime, Lillard is 31-49 (63.3%) from the field and 14-24 from three (58.3%) for 104 points (84.8 TS%).

“For me, I would prefer to make that final decision, but I don’t think—I think when you think of a closer, you think of a person that’s going for the team’s neck, that’s taking the shot,” Lillard said. “But that doesn’t mean that sometimes you are not using that to get the next guy a shot. Guys who take pride in closing games and that want to close games, they figure a way to get something off and to be the person that’s doing it in my opinion.”

The Trail Blazers are +42 in Lillard’s 71 clutch minutes.

I guess there’s a reason why they called it “Lillard Time” or “Dame Time” after all. This man is a force to be reckoned with and yet, he keeps taking his game to another level each and every game.