When you’re hot, you’re hot, and it has nothing to do with set plays, schemes or a coaches plan. Damian Lillard pulled up from very deep in order to give the Portland Trail Blazers another last second victory, this time knocking a game-winning three pointer over Kyrie Irving to put his foot down and decide the duel between the two point guards, while the Blazers left with the 119-116 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
This is the second time in less than a week that Lillard pulls up for the clutch three, sending the Blazers home with the win. He his a career high 8 field goals from beyond the arc, finishing the game with 36 points and 10 assists. Irving wasn’t bad, staying quite close with 25 points and 10 assists, but he simply wasn’t about to match Lillard shot for shot, just as the Cavs aren’t good enough to hang with the Blazers.
Lillard later mentioned that he thought about trying to blow by Irving and score from close range, but the Cavs have some guys who can block him, so he stuck to what’s been working great for him all night. Lillard doesn’t just hit 3-pointers. He pulls up from way beyond the arc, coming off screens or simply when dribbling up the court. Defenders are afraid of his speed and ability to blow by them, so he’s left with enough time and room to pull up for very long 3’s.
There was a lot more than just Lillard, who still hasn’t missed a 2-point field goal in his career during overtime, to what the Blazers brought against the Cavs. LaMarcus Aldridge had himself another double double, scoring 26 points and adding 14 rebounds. Wesley Matthews had a great day from the outside, scoring 19 points on 3-of-6 from 3-point. Nicolas Batum was really helpful in the paint, grabbing 9 rebounds and adding 14 points, as Robin Lopez found it difficult fighting for rebounds against Anderson Varejao and Andrew Bynum on his own.
The Cavs have less offensive talent, but their second best player is coming off the bench. Dion Waiters scored 25 points on a great 11-of-19 shooting night, which probably improves his trade value more than anything else, as the Cavs continue to look for someone who’ll take him on. Jarrett Jack added 12 points from the bench as well, as Cleveland had an unusual night of great shooting, including 9-of-17 from beyond the arc, and terrible defense.
Eventually, most teams who’ll enter a shootout with the Blazers will lose. Portland can’t keep hitting 3’s at this rate, knocking down 15 in the win (45.5%), but there’s nothing that seems to be slowing down. LaMarcus Aldridge is making almost every possible shot, and the ball movement and screens just keep finding open players. Even when they’re not open, the ball ends up in the net.
The question whether Portland are real or not remains, but they continue to defy the odds, improving to 22-4 so far this season, as their incredible offensive pace pushed them to new highs for this group of players except for Mo Williams, who tasted something similar while playing with LeBron James in Cleveland.