A simple tap of the wrist. A celebration created by Damian Lillard and emulated by Isaiah Thomas and John Wall. When they score in the clutch, they don't hesitate to let the crowd know what time it is. After the back and forth about whether the most clutch fourth quarter scorer in the league this year, Isaiah Thomas, could use the celebration, I began to think about Damian. Is he the Blazers best clutch player this season, or does that title go to the crafty C.J McCollum?
The phrase "Lillard Time" has now been around for a while. You see it going around the Moda Center when he scores in the clutch, you see it on t-shirts, and you most certainly hear it from watching the Blazers play in a close game on TV. This nickname is well deserved as he has hit many game winners in his career including his three against the Thunder when he introduced the wrist-tap celebration and the shot that made him famous with .9 seconds left in game 6. While Lillard has been a cold-blooded assassin throughout his career, he has often come up short or faded this year while C.J McCollum has stepped into the spotlight.
This year, Lillard has had is moments in the clutch when he hit both the game tying and game winning shots against Denver and also going on a personal 9-0 run vs Memphis to drive the Blazers in front. In the clutch, Damian Lillard is shooting 34% on his threes and averages 2.6 turnovers which could be huge ones late in a game. The other day, Sports Illustrated's Ben Golliver tweeted out that Damian is shooting 0-11 from three when the game is within three in the final three minutes. Also, in that three-minute span when down by three, Damian is shooting 25% while he has not made a three. Lillards clutch stats this year have not been pretty, but that can be contributed to him being the focus of the opponents defense in the clutch. With him getting doubled all the time, like on the play where he turned it over vs Dallas, he has nowhere to go so he has to force a pass. Everybody in the country knows that if Lillard gets the ball with one possession left in a single possession game, he will dribble out the clock and shoot either a step-back three or force up a double-clutch shot attempting to get fouled. While his usage rate is 30.1% in the clutch, he has not made defenders pay like he used to.
The Blazers second-best player and reliable clutch scorer is C.J McCollum. This year alone he has hit two game tying threes to keep sending Detroit into OT and a game-winning floater vs the Dallas Mavericks. Watching C.J and watching Dame in the clutch are two very different things. C.J is smooth, artistic, and poetic while Damian is fast, strong, and aggressive. In clutch situations this year C.J is shooting 48% from the field and 42% from downtown. In the same situation as Lillard where the Blazers are down three with thirty seconds, C.J is shooting 50% from the field and 66.7% from three. C.J has a 27.8% usage percentage, but as Dame said, they both defer to one another when they get hot.
No matter whether it is C.J or Damian, the Blazers have two reliable play makers that they can go to in the clutch. With the amount of attention that they pay to both players, it can open up opportunities for players like Allen Crabbe or Evan Turner (which we saw vs Golden State). All we know is that the Blazers have weapons in clutch situations and they should be winning more in those situations then they do.
*All stats were found on the NBA Stats Page