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Damian Lillard Talks Finding the Hot Shooter, Improved Defense

After handily dispatching the Lakers, Lillard discusses his awareness of his teammates, as well as his improved defense.

Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum led the charge in the Portland Trail Blazers' 108-96 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday. CSNNW gets the post-game scoop on Lillards performance, focusing less on his obvious skills as a scorer, and more on his aptitude as a facilitator and defensive improvement.

[The Lakers were] a team that probably looked at us as a game that they could win and, you know, we played well against them last week, and to be playing them so quickly—a quick turnaround—to be playing them again, you know, it’s tough to beat a team two times in a row. They came out and they played well. I was just proud of the way that we came out from the jump and we played hard. We played with a sense of urgency.

What goes through your mind when you see CJ start like that?

Ride it out. You know, try to find him as much as I can because I think we all understand that CJ’s a guy that can run off a bunch of points at a time, and at the start of the game we saw that he hit that first one—how the ball went in—so I tried to just keep calling plays and in transition just keep finding him.

And you got to go to the second half. Is that another thing where you guys kind of feel each other out a little bit and maybe defer to the other when the other one has it going?

I mean, I don’t think it’s about deferring to each other. I think it’s about doing the right thing and just being aware if somebody’s hot. At this level, if somebody’s hot that could change a game. And he came out hot, so it’s what you should do, you know, make the right play, but still make sure that you’re aware of where the hot guy is. In the second half, I hit a few shots to start off. The second half is when you win a game. So I just got a little more aggressive, some shots fell, and we was able to get a win.

Do you think that your defense has improved this year?

I know it has. I can just feel it. It’s not so much me, one-on-one, you know, it’s just positioning, knowing where I should be, being able to help, being able to impact our defense by just the feel that I have for the league and what other teams do and what we do.

I think this year, watching film, I’m not getting hit by as many screens. Not even close to as many screens, and that’s allowing me to get myself back into the play and get back in front of guys. When they think I’m out of the play, they raising up comfortably and I come from behind and I block one, the next 10 possessions they might be bothered by the fact that I just blocked one of their shots.I know that for a fact, being someone who shoots off pick-and-rolls. I just feel I’m a lot better as a defender this year.

Wasn’t that a point of emphasis, not getting hit in the summer? Working on avoiding and anticipating?

It was. Me and CJ, it was a huge thing because I know that I’m going to play a lot of minutes, I know that I have to make plays and score the ball offensively. So I can’t come down every possession and keep getting hit. It takes a lot out of you. I think I’ve done a better job of that.