The Portland Trail Blazers have officially finished one of the most impressive runs you will ever see. They had five games in seven days and won every single one of them.
It started on February 11 against the Philadelphia 76ers. Damian Lillard and Carmelo Anthony combined for 54 points in the 118-114 victory. The next day was an utter domination of the Cleveland Cavaliers in which Lillard, Carmelo, Enes Kanter and Gary Trent all scored at least 20 points. The final score was 129-110. Lillard went for 34 in the third game against the Dallas Mavericks, generating 11 assists for his team en route to the 121-118 win. Kanter had an elite 21 rebounds to complement Lillard’s third 30-point performance in four games as the Blazers won 115-104. The fifth and final game was on February 17, the 126-124 Portland victory headlined by a whopping 43 points and 16 assists by, you guessed it, Damian Lillard.
If there’s one thing to take away from the first 28 games of the NBA season, it’s the level of play that Damian Lillard is putting out. On the season he’s averaging just under 30 points and 7.7 assists per game on 45/38/93 shooting splits. He’s 11th in field goals made, second in three-pointers made and third in free throws. Despite his incredible scoring, he’s 7th in assists with 209. Lillard is third in points per game (second in total points) and is also ranking near the top in the more advanced stats. Player Efficiency Rating averages out a player’s production-per-minute in such a way that the average is 15. Lillard is fifth with 27.1. Win Shares is similar to baseball’s Wins Above Replacement in that it tries to estimate the amount of wins you will get by having that player on your team. Lillard is second with 4.5.
Even getting more precise and obscure with the statistics, they all point the same way. “In the clutch” counts the last five minutes of games that are decided by five points or less. Lillard ranks first in points in these situations with 82, field goal percentage (63.2), three-point percentage (58.8), free throw percentage (100, has not missed a free throw in the clutch this year) and has led his team to a 12-3 record in these games. Every other day there’s a new game-winner.
Lillard is on the fast track to being the best Trail Blazer of all time, if you want to argue that he isn’t already. His 86 career win shares is second all-time for Portland behind Clyde Drexler. As sports fans in the pacific northwest, the league has never really highlighted Dame’s legacy with a major award, but that’s okay. Even this year, he’s unlikely to win the MVP and someone like Nikola Jokic would be totally deserving of it. Still, the Trail Blazers are now 18-10 missing two starters and Lillard has been the forefront of it all. This is the best basketball in recent history that us fans have seen, and it deserves to be appreciated before it’s lost. Even now, Lillard is headed to his sixth career all-star game and is supposedly signing a multi-year partnership with a luxury watch company to solidify his “Dame Time” mantra. Enjoy this while it lasts.