Damian Lillard was off to one incredibly hot start. The Portland Trail Blazers’ point guard started off the season on fire, becoming the first player in the NBA to score 100 points, dish out 25 assists, grab 25 rebounds, and make 20 three pointers in the first 5 games of the season. He was also blowing away his goal to shoot 40 percent from the three-point line this year, making a blistering 48 percent of his shots from behind the arc.
That all changed in last night’s game against the Sacramento Kings. Lillard suffered the worst shooting night of his career, making just 1 of 15 field goals, including 0 of 5 from three. He did contribute 6 assists, and 6 rebounds, with only one turnover. The Kings double-teamed Lillard all night and forced other Blazers to step up their offensive game.
Luckily, the always consistent shooting of LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, and a few others answered the call. Aldridge had a monster first half, with 16 points and 11 rebounds, and finished with 22 and 14, respectively. Matthews added 21 points and hit some big shots in the 3rd and 4th quarters to squelch the Kings comeback effort. Nic Batum pitched in 12 points, and Robin Lopez had his best statistical game with the Blazers, scoring 12 points and pulling down 10 rebounds.
Lillard’s shooting percentages this season dropped significantly, after last nights game, with his field goals made dropping from 44 to 38 percent, and his three-point percentage falling to 42. Thankfully, with 76 more games to play, and such a short time into the season, those percentages should have no problem climbing back up. Last night’s game was an anomaly for Lillard, whose 4 points tied a career low.
However, with the double team on Lillard working effectively last night, it may inspire other opponents to try the same tactic, forcing the rest of the Blazers to step up. Lillard and Coach Stotts will have to find a way to make teams pay for doubling him, and I have no doubt that they will. It’s a lot easier to make adjustments now that the team is deeper.
Lillard is a consummate professional and is always working to get better. I believe that the bad shooting night he experienced will only make him work that much harder to become one of the elite point guards in the NBA.