The Trail Blazers solid start to the 2017-18 NBA season has been a product of Portland’s ability to finish close games. The Blazers have already competed in ten contests that have been decided by five points or fewer, and coach Terry Stotts has often relied on the steady hands of Damian Lillard to get the job done in the final moments. Lillard’s work hasn’t gone unnoticed, as Bleacher Report’s Dan Favale recently recognized the former Weber State star as one of the NBA’s best performers in the clutch.
Favale ranked 15 players on their ability to perform in the fourth quarter, and Lillard claimed the No. 3 spot on the list. Bleacher Report explained his placement with the following:
Face it: Damian Lillard was always going to comfortably crack this pecking order. He traffics in taking and making big shots. The less daylight, the better. Finding nylon in tight crevices is hard-wired into his brain.
Lillard is shooting 50 percent on the season when defenders are within two feet of his person for crying out loud, and he's hiitting on more than 57 percent when he's inside the arc. How are defenses supposed to guard against that? They can hope he settles for a step-back three a few feet beyond the rainbow, but he's comfortable launching from wherever, whenever, however. He doesn't so much settle as remind opponents they're at the mercy of his parking-lot range.
Lillard has supplemented his late-game scoring with frequent—and fruitful—trips to the free throw line. Favale explained Dame’s mastery at the charity with this explanation:
He averages 12.3 free-throw attempts per 36 minutes of crunch time, which is somehow a tick off last year's pace (13.2).
And Big Game Dame doesn't miss once he gets to the charity stripe. He's shooting a career-best 92.6 percent from the foul line overall and has yet to miss in the clutch. He is a perfect 21-of-21 and has attempted at least seven more free throws than anyone else in the league.
LeBron James and Kyrie Irving were the only players to surpass Lillard on the list. You can read Favale’s full rankings by following this link.