The Oklahoma City Thunder re-learned a valuable lesson against the Portland Trail Blazers: You can’t let Damian Lillard get hot, because once he does, he’s not going to cool down for a long time. Up until the final three minutes of the game, Lillard had scored a rather pedestrian 14 points. Then he hit a deep three-pointer, and all hell broke loose. Lillard more than doubled his output over those final minutes, scoring 17 points and hitting just about any shot he attempted. His range was unlimited while going 5-of-5 from downtown. Had he tried to hoist one from halfcourt, it probably would have found nothing but nylon. Those 17 points turned certain defeat into a surprising, 115-110, victory.
This is not the first time Lillard’s put on such a show – one he likes to call “Lillard Time.” It’s become a signature of his, endearing him to the entire city of Portland. Yet, something that’s endearing can, in this instance, also be a source of anxiety. The Blazers are rebuilding, and what if Lillard gets the itch to perform like this under brighter lights with a better team? According to Jason Quick of CSNNW.com, no such itch exists, so neither should the anxiety.
So when Lillard was asked that question Friday night, about becoming the first Blazer to have 40 and 10 in the Moda Center, his answer should catch your ear.
“It’s always good to be the first one to do something,’’ Lillard said. “Especially being part of an organization I plan on being a part of for my entire career. It’s an honor, but I would have liked for it to be in a winning effort.’’
“Things get tough. It’s a tough league,’’ Lillard said. “You have ups and downs. We flipped our roster, man. We completely flipped and got a brand new team. And I signed up to be a part of it. To be a part of the growth. I have to grow just as much as our team has to grow, and I’m excited about that, that’s why it’s not hard for me to say that’s what I want.’’
Of course, it’s easy for Lillard to say that when he just signed a massive five-year, $120 million extension this summer. Who knows what will happen when that contract ends, or even before? For now, though, Lillard is making it clear that this is his team and his city. Lillard Time and his 17-point explosions won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.