The Portland Trail Blazers aren’t the only team in the NBA heavily relying on shooting 3-pointers. But after the mass exodus of this offseason which leaves Damian Lillard with newly promoted C.J. McCollum as the vanguard of the offense, it’s even more of a shooting team that goes by how hot and cold they are that night.
Lillard scored 31 points including eight 3-pointers as the Blazers surprised the Oklahoma City Thunder in a 115-110 win. The Blazers connected 19 times from deep, a season high for them, and when they’re scorching from behind the arc, even the combination of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook scoring 52 points isn’t enough. Allen Crabbe with three 3-pointers off the bench to score 11 points is also worth mentioning. But it was mostly Lillard catching fire in the final three minutes, scoring 15 points to pull the Blazers from the verge of a loss to victory.
While it’s never easy seeing so many players leave at once, and it’s impossible for Portland to make up for LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum and Robin Lopez all leaving in one summer, it’s not certain Lillard doesn’t like the new situation. A shoot first and shoot a lot kind of point guard who is always about how hot or cold he is and not anything else (like ball movement, defense and trying to develop offense off slightly more complicated set plays) doesn’t really mind being the main scoring outlet without serious competition anymore.
Lillard also had nine assists in the win against the Thunder, and is averaging 7 per game this season, while scoring 24.8 points per game. His usage ratio through his first three seasons in the league was 25.3%, but it has jumped to 31.5% this season hence the improved numbers, although he’s also gotten a boost in per minute numbers, simply shooting a lot more than before, hitting 41.4% of his field goal attempts and making 37.4% of his threes.
An addition he has gotten this season is McCollum. Personally I thought the Lehigh star was going to be a stud right off the bat, but two years of injuries set him back. This season, playing 35.5 minutes per game in a massive role, he’s averaging 20.9 points per game, about double his scoring averages combined from his first two seasons in the league. He’s very much like Lillard in terms of style only he passes less and defends a little bit better, which might not be good for the Blazers as a team trying to win a championship one of these days, but it’s pretty fun to watch, especially when all their shots are dropping.