Damian Lillard: The New King Of Clutch


VIDEO: Damian Lillard was a man on a mission in Portland’s win over Cleveland

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Damian Lillard is an assassin.

Get this: When Steph Curry buried a buzzer-beater to lift Golden State over Dallas last week, it was the first time the surest shooter in the league had collected a game-winner since … high school? At least that was the last one the fifth-year Golden State Warriors point guard who spent the previous three seasons shooting the lights out at Davidson, could recall.

That puts into perspective what Lillard, the Portland Trail Blazers’ dazzling second-year point guard, has done in the last two games: Consecutive buzzer-beating game-winners.

At Detroit on Sunday with the game tied in overtime at 109, Lillard, with about 12 seconds on the clock, went one-on-one with Pistons guard Rodney Stuckey. Lillard dribbled up top, came around a LaMarcus Aldridge screen but it didn’t free him up. He kept dribbling, spun at the free-throw line to get inside the paint and drained a fallaway with 0.1 seconds left. He finished with 23 points, eight in overtime.

At Cleveland on Tuesday, the Cavs made a furious comeback from 10 down in the final 2:15 to tie the game at 116-116 with 7.1 seconds left in regulation. This time Lillard lulled Cavs defender Alonzo Gee several feet beyond the top of the 3-point arc. With Gee allowing space presumably to protect against the dribble-drive, Lillard rose up and splashed the 3-pointer as the horn blew. The official play-by-play called it from 30 feet. He finished with 36 points — 12 in the fourth quarter — 10 assists and eight rebounds.

“You’re watching a superstar being born right in front our eyes,” were the in-the-moment words spoken by Cavs color commentator Austin Carr, who has the nightly privilege of watching another cool clutch performer in Kyrie Irving.

And just like his stoic reaction at Detroit, Lillard acted as though he expected no other outcome. And why not? He’s now pocketed four game-winners on the season and has established himself as the game’s top clutch-time performer:

In clutch situations (defined as the final five minutes of regulation or overtime and the team ahead or behind by five or fewer points), no one’s been better than the 6-foot-3 reigning Rookie of the Year out of Weber State.

In 49 clutch minutes, he’s scored 55 points in 49 minutes on 15-for-30 shooting from the floor (8-for-16 on 3s), 17-for-19 from the free-throw line, plus seven assists and seven rebounds. No matter how you slice up the situations — three minutes to go in a three-point game, two minutes left in a two-point game, in the final minute and behind by two or tied — Lillard’s point production stands at the top of the list of clutch performers.

His career overtime stats are mind-boggling (courtesy NBA.com/Stats): 45 minutes, 43 points, 15-for-19 from the floor (10-for-10 inside the arc), 8-for-8 on free throws and a plus-31 rating. Portland is 7-1 in those games.

Some of it is simply due to the number of close games a team plays (Portland is 4-1 in games decided by three points or less and 2-0 in overtime), but coming through in such situations rarely occurs at the success rate Lillard has demonstrated over and over.

In the standard definition of a clutch situation (ahead or behind by five points with five minutes to go), Lillard’s plus-minus rating ranks No. 1 at plus-52. It’s little surprise that his teammates — Nicolas Batum, plus-51; Wesley Matthews, plus-50; and Aldridge plus-49 — rank second through fourth. Robin Lopez is seventh at plus-32.

However, in terms of clutch-time points, Aldridge is Portland’s next-highest scorer with 28 points — 27 fewer than the stone-cold Lillard.

8 Comments

  1. Kal says:

    Lillard is all-star starter material this year.

    So is Parker. Chris Paul. And the best West guard out there (so no Kobe) right now, Steph Curry.

    But you can only vote in two guards…

    Just aint fair…

  2. BROYFAN says:

    This dude is the next brandon roy like im not even kidding i feel like every portland guard just becomes clutch ever since broy been in the league for some reason

  3. RajK says:

    If I was playing against Lillard I think the scariest thing wouldn’t be the clutch shot. Its the attitude man. He’s so self-possessed, can’t be rattled, he probably wanted to best Kyrie but in the moment he’s not playing against anyone but himself . Look at him after he puts the shot down! Neither time does he even give a sideways glance at his opponent! Didn’t need any of that kinda showboating like see that? see what I just did to you? NOPE – He’s done, did what he wanted do and it’s over and he’s out. Cold blooded, self-contained. Who knows how they’ll do in the playoffs cause its about the team not one guy but I bet you ask anyone in the league if they’d want him with them in the playoffs they’d snap him up in a nano-second,

  4. okc2014 says:

    I’m impressed with Lillard and the Portland Trailblazers. But do they have the gusto to pull through the finals and win a championship? I’m not sold on them for the playoffs.

  5. BRoy4LIFE says:

    He is the future of portland. And he has been clutch since his first preseason game. GAMIAN SKILLARD

  6. standard says:

    clutch lets see that on playoffs
    when and where it really matters

    • mikeymart says:

      Lillard is dynamite and never fails to impress. He’s for real and the Blazers are for real. So far this year they’ve beat the Spurs, Pacers and Thunder and are showing no signs of slowing up. I know its early in the season and I’m certainly not making any title predictions but it sure is exciting to have this team in Portland right now, especially after the last few years of BS we’ve been through. Give credit where credit is due.

  7. tv63 says:

    Not at all surprised. He was lookin for some revenge on Kyrie. Irving scorched him their last game and it was often used in highlights at his expense. This kid has a chip on his shoulders and is out to prove himself. Kyrie should have known better!