Let’s just say it: It hasn’t been pretty for the Trail Blazers, who find themselves in a big and not-so-easy 0-2 deficit against the New Orleans Pelicans in the opening round of the NBA Playoffs. A factor in the disappointing showing thus far has been the play of All-Star Damian Lillard. Through two games, he has shot 32 percent from the field and has totalled just 35 points in two games — a number Lillard’s shown he can easily accomplish in one game alone.
Haley O’Shaughnessy of The Ringer thinks it may be time to rethink how Lillard is viewed after the poor outings at home:
Entering the postseason this year, the Blazers gave the impression that they had a real chance because of Lillard’s commanding second half of the season—his final 25 games were littered with fourth-quarter hot streaks and he averaged 30.5 points per game. That narrative is wilting fast, and the regular season, ultimately, isn’t where players’ reputations are cemented.
Like many others, O’Shaughnessy credits Lillard’s receding presence in the series to Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday, who is arguably playing the best basketball of his eight-year career:
Meanwhile, Holiday’s back-to-back performances, and in particular Tuesday’s, have shattered the preconceived notions for those outside Louisiana about his ceiling on both ends of the floor. In both games combined, C.J. McCollum and Lillard have gone 29-for-80 from the field. Holiday, by himself, was five made shots away from equalling that, on about half the attempts: 24-for-44. His triumph only makes Lillard’s absence look comparatively worse.
Both games have been within reach in the final minutes and O’Shaughnessy believes that should be where Lillard’s star shines through:
Lillard’s allure is predicated on his prowess in clutch situations; Big Game Dame’s closing arguments for All-NBA honors came in Portland’s closing minutes. But what’s a nickname if it doesn’t ring true on the biggest stage?