Damian Lillard is a two-time All-Star, an All-NBA talent, and one of five players ever to unanimously win Rookie of the Year. He holds the Trail Blazers franchise record for most 3-pointers made and—just last night—claimed the franchise record for most points in a single game (59). But in Lillard’s eyes, none of these accolades match what we’ve witnessed him accomplish over the course of the past several weeks. After being largely counted out, he led the Trail Blazers to their fourth consecutive playoff berth.
“Biggest accomplishment of my career,’’ Lillard told Jason Quick of CSNNW. “Lot of fingers were pointed at me from the outside when we struggled, and people said a lot of things about me. I didn’t make excuses or cry about it. I said I would be better and I would man up – and I did just that.”
Sparked by the acquisition of center Jusuf Nurkic in February, the Trail Blazers blasted their way into the playoff picture, notching an NBA-best 13-3 record in the month of March. Lillard averaged nearly 30 points per game during that stretch, as the team caught up to the rival Denver Nuggets, from whence Nurk came. On March 28, the Trail Blazers defeated the Nuggets to win the season series and playoff tiebreak, and finally, this afternoon, the Oklahoma City Thunder took the Nuggets completely out of the picture.
The Trail Blazers now sit at 40-40; the Nuggets at 38-42. With two games left to play, each, the best the Nuggets can do is match the Trail Blazers’ record, which is not enough to overtake them. The Portland team that stepped into March 11 games below .500 will take on the Golden State Warriors in round one of the NBA Playoffs.
Per Quick, Lillard adds: “Now we stayed locked in and go try to shock the world.’’