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Damian Lillard Loves Playing in the Clutch

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Portland’s super-scoring guard is a strong option when the game gets close late.

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NBA: Golden State Warriors at Portland Trail Blazers Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Call it crunch time, call it gametime, call it Lillard time, but no matter what you want to call it, the Portland Trail BlazersDamian Lillard, loves it.

Although Lillard has been known for a few years now to to be a dangerous man when the game is close, he has been playing exceptionally well lately, most noticeably near the end of a close games. On February 24th, Lillard finished off the Phoenix Suns with 7 points in the last 1:10 of regulation including a lay-in to take a 2 point lead with 0.9 seconds left. Then last Monday, Lillard bombarded the Los Angeles Lakers with four three-pointers on four straight possessions late in the fourth quarter to help the Blazers pull out the come from behind victory. The letter ‘O’ ended with 39 points, 19 of which came in the fourth quarter of the comeback victory. Both wins were part of the Blazers current nine game winning streak which has seen no shortage of greatness from Lillard on the regular.

Lillard’s incredible play has helped him develop a reputation around the NBA for being one of the most dangerous players with the ball in his hands and the game on the line. Even Lillards signature game winning gesture, a tapping of an imaging watch signaling “Lillard Time” has also become infamous with his late game heroics.

Jordan Greer from Sporting News caught up with Lillard earlier in the year to talk to him about how he views those critical moments of the game and how he mentally is so comfortable in those situations.

Here’s what Dame had to say:

SPORTING NEWS: What is it mentally that makes you so comfortable in those clutch situations?

DAMIAN LILLARD: I think, for one, it’s just the hard work that goes into being a successful athlete. I know in my heart that I actually put this time in, and I actually do what I say I do. I take a lot of confidence away from that. And I’m able to deal with having success or failing in those situations. My mind won’t change. I won’t have confidence issues. I’ll go home, and I’ll sleep, and I’ll wake up the next day and if the situation comes up again, I’ll want the ball again.

But also, when you get to those last few minutes and the game is on the line regardless of how you’ve shot the ball in that game or how you played last game, there’s an opportunity to rise up and just show that you’re built for it. I love those situations.

Lillard goes on to explain in detail a few of the situations when he was able to find success in those critical moments and also times where he was not. He also talks about his thoughts on the ‘clutch gene’ and who he would pick for a final shot if he couldn't pick himself.

Damian did the interview as part of Foot Locker’s Week of Greatness, where the players support a charity. Last year, they helped provide gently-used shoes to the still-recovering Puerto Rico, post-Hurricane Maria.

Lillard donated 500 pairs of his own shoes and spoke to teenagers at a local facility on how they can give back to those in need.

If you’re interested in supporting Puerto Rico’s recovery, here is a list of charities via Charity Navigator.