After scoring 30 points that felt like 40 in Game 1, Damian Lillard put up 29 points in Game 2 of Portland’s first-round series against Oklahoma City. Each one of his buckets felt like a dagger to the heart. In propelling Portland to a 2-0 series lead, they may have also been a dagger to the Thunder’s playoff hopes.
On one play, Lillard made a meme out of Raymond Felton, turning him around with a nasty crossover before ending the third quarter at the buzzer with a step-back three.
On another, he pump-faked, then hit a fade-away three over Terrance Ferguson’s arms.
And the two most telling possessions of the night were when Lillard matched up against Russell Westbrook. On one, he knocked the ball out of Westbrook’s hands, then out-hustled him to the loose ball. On the other, Lillard stopped Westbrook, forcing the Thunder guard into a contested three. Then he flexed his arms to celebrate the stop, took two dribbles past half-court, and nailed an absolute bomb from at least 30 feet out.
This is the best version of Damian Lillard: the assassin, the cold-blooded killer, the fiery competitor, the motivated leader, the player for whom there is no answer. Call him what you want: Dame Dolla or Logo Lillard. Maybe it’s time to call him the best player on the floor.
In a series where the Thunder have a both triple double machine and a dual candidate for both MVP and Defensive Player of the year, the Trail Blazers have the difference maker.
It was only a couple months ago that Westbrook issued Lillard a reminder: the Thunder have been beating the Trail Blazers for years. More specifically, Westbrook wanted to remind Lillard: “I’ve been busting your ass for years.”
But damn, the tables have turned. Lillard is averaging 35 points in the four games since then, including 51 points on March 7 and the two dominant playoff victories he’s led Portland to this series.
Lillard has made nine threes in this series, on 47 percent shooting from downtown. The Thunder are shooting 10-of-61 from downtown in the first two games. No matter which way you slice it, he’s outplaying all of Oklahoma City.
This is awful news for OKC. Yes, the series is shifting to their house for Games 3 and 4, and teams generally play better with their home crowd behind them. But the Trail Blazers have been far and away the better team in this series. Portland just destroyed Oklahoma City by 20 in Game 2. The Thunder looked outmatched, maybe even outclassed.
Stephen Curry is the de facto best player at his position, but Lillard is making his case to be No. 2. From what we’ve seen through two games, Lillard is just a step ahead of his competition.
This year might finally be his year.