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Damian Lillard Discusses Adversity And Growth After Loss In Orlando

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The Blazers kicked off their 5-game road trip with two straight losses, but team leader Damian Lillard remains undeterred.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers dropped to 11-17 with a 94-102 road loss to the Orlando Magic on Friday. Despite the disappointment, Damian Lillard relishes the difficulty of such games, eager to learn and grow from challenges. Post-game videos via CSNNW:

What is the best way for you to handle when they send two guys at you? I think, like, the first play of the game they did that and you had a turnover. What do you need to get better at in that situation?

You got to trust it. When they send two guys at you that means somebody open. Finding that next guy, it’s not going to be probably the guy closest to you, which makes it tough. On the one that you’re talking about—the turnover—two guys came to me in the corner and the next guy would have been our big, but the guy that was open, his man came over and took away the big. It was a miscommunication. I passed it one way and one of my teammates thought I was going somewhere else with it, and it was a turnover, but it’s easy to say something about a shooting percentage or a turnover when you haven’t been the person in my shoes.

I’m going to continue to be myself, and it’s no excuses. I know that I’m going to get tough shots, I’m going to continue to take shots, I’m going to continue to be aggressive, and I’m going to continue to make plays for everybody else. That’s pretty much it.

I guess, more what I was saying is like, do you need to identify who that open guy is sooner or do you need players to come to you more or…?

I think I had 10 assists tonight. I think this season I’m averaging more assists than I have in my career. So, I think I’m doing a pretty good job of finding that guy. I think that the problem is not turning the ball over as much. Me being the point guard and leader of the team, I can’t be the guy making that mistake and I guess not valuing the possessions as much, and that’s something I got to be better at.

So you would say that your shots this year have been toughest looks that you’ve had in your career so far, generally speaking?

Yeah, I would say that. Obviously, in the past, having guys like LA [LaMarcus Aldridge], Wes [Matthews], and Nico [Batum], to start the game I’ll probably get easier looks. That makes it easier to be in a rhythm over the course of a full game, whereas to now, from the jump it’s like the first three shots—they tough shots. I’m not the first guy that this happened to, you know what I mean? You go around the league and look at guys who have gotten a lot of attention, and you look at it and it’s tough and it’ll show; especially with this being my first 30 games in this position.

How do you just feel your way through that? Do you try to work through different schemes and sets to get looks, or how do you counter that?

You get better at doing what you do against what other teams come at you with. They come at me with a trap, I got to be better with getting an assist instead of turning it over. When a guy is coming behind me contesting a shot, I got to get better at making that shot instead of taking a more off-balance shot because he’s coming. It’s stuff like that. I just got to be better.

We all knew that it was going to be a trying year and that it would be tough. I feel like you guys are kind of getting into the thick of it now where it is. This is like the first real sign of adversity and being hard. What is your assessment of where you guys are at and how you are handling it?

I mean, I like it. It’s an opportunity for us to grow, man. You know, we started off the season well, 4-and-2, and then we lose seven games in a row, and at that time, it was like ‘Alright, now what’s going on?’ and then we bounced back again. Now, I think we’ve lost two in a row now and it’s not the end of the world.

Like I said, in the West, it’s close. We still maybe a game and a half, two games out of eighth place and we aren’t playing well, so when we do start playing well and we do start making more shots and we do start defending more consistently, then that’s when people will see the growth. Right now, it’s easy to say, you know, ‘It’s getting tough. They’re in the thick of it. They’ve lost two games,’ I mean, that’s the easy thing to do, but our vibe is still the same. We still laugh with each other, we still practice hard together, we still go into games thinking we can win, and that’s the bottom line.

What part do you like about it though?

I like that it’s hard. I like that it’s hard. You go out there and that makes it fun. As a competitor, that makes it fun, having a challenge in front of you. I like the fact that teams are coming after me, they making it hard, so it’s giving me something where I haven’t shot the ball well. Now, when I do star shooting it well, I’ll… you know, you got to play a game within a game and make fun of it.

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