As for Lillard being unproven as the “go-to guy,” that didn’t last long. Just two weeks later the Blazers hosted the Hornets (now Pelicans, but for the sake of chronological accuracy, we’ll leave it be). It was the very first time we would see him play on the same floor as #1 draft pick, and biggest competitor for Rookie of the Year, Anthony Davis. Though each had a performance of similar caliber, it was Lillard that would leave his mark.
Unlike Batum, Lillard was fresh off of a (then) career high 29 points against the Spurs. This game falls smack in the middle of the Blazers’ first big run of the year; the five game winning streak that convinced many that the young squad had budding playoff potential. Whether Lillard’s motivation was to prove that the hot streak was no fluke, that he was the best rookie in the league, or simply that he wanted to win, the implications of this matchup were far-reaching in the media.
The game tied 92-92 with 4.2 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Lillard inbounded the ball to Luke Babbitt. This time, it was a designed play in which Babbitt immediately returned the rock to Lillard and set a pick on Lillard’s man, Greivis Vasquez. Damian drained the three as time expired (in the face of Ryan Anderson, the previous season’s 3-point leader) and solidified his lead over Anthony Davis in the rookie standings. Blazers won 95-92.