After a stretch of late-game meltdowns, the Portland Trail Blazers appear to be rounding into form. Point guard Damian Lillard discusses how he has found success in the past two games, and how the team is growing from its experience. Videos via CSNNW:
[D'Angelo Russell] is a solid player. Obviously, being a rookie, it’s a little bit different. You know, it’s early in the season, you’re finding your way and that’s the process that he has to go through. Just got to get that experience and he’ll be fine. He’s a really good passer, you know, he seems like a guy that could really step in and run a team.
Damian, five of your 28 30-point+ games have come against the Lakers. Do you feel like you have something a little extra against LA or is it just kind of the way it goes?
I really don’t know. It might be the way that they guard pick-and-rolls, it might be the color of the floor here, I really don’t know. I just—some teams you just play well against them.
Mason [Plumlee] seems to be on a roll as well. What have you seen from him in your play in the pick-and-roll?
Well he’s locking in on what he can do to help everybody else and I think that’s really helping him. Him setting solid screens instead of just kind of whiffing on screens. He’s setting good screens and his man is having to help. You know, the big is having to help and he’s rolling to the rim and if the guy on the weak side doesn’t come in he’s getting a layup or getting fouled, and if they do he’s a capable passer, so he’s hitting the weak side of the defense. The more we can make guys pay, the more effective me and him in pick-and-rolls will be.
Like I said earlier, it’s my first time being in this position, so it’s something that I have to figure out, but I think the main thing is just to be aggressive. Tonight I came out and on the first two possessions I got two good shots—two good looks, but I still continued to be aggressive and that doesn’t always mean shooting. You know, I get in the paint sometimes and drop it off or get in the paint sometimes and hit somebody on the wing because the defense sucks in. So I think that’s the main thing that I’ve figured out up to this point is that I’ve got to be aggressive regardless. I can’t say, ‘alright I’m going to shoot this time’ or ‘I’m going to pass this time.’ I have to be able to be good at decision making throughout the game and I think I’ve gotten better at it.
After having some issues in the fourth quarter—the past two games, you guys have not only—you’ve been able to push the lead up in the fourth quarter. Do you feel like maybe you’ve put some of that stuff behind you or is it, again, just a different flow of a different team?
I mean, it’s a part of growth for a young team to have leads early in games at the start of the season, and we let some slip. Part of that was what we did for the whole game defensively and in the fourth we didn’t do it. And offensively we didn’t execute well enough in those games. In the last two games, we’ve done a better job, you know, playing four quarters. We’ve defended well for the entire game. Tonight specifically we just tightened up. The last five minutes I just remember getting deflections and guys shooting tough shots and hitting front rim. And we was able to run out instead of playing the halfcourt offense so, you know, it’s really just our defense and that allows us to close out games.