Damian Lillard produced 28 points in the Trail Blazers crucial Game 3 victory over the Nuggets on Friday. While Lillard’s production deserves a portion of the spotlight, it was the superb output from Portland’s supporting cast that put the Blazers over the top. Four players joined Lillard in double figures, with CJ McCollum leading the way with a 41-point explosion.
After the game, Sports Illustrated’s Michael Shapiro pointed to Portland’s non-Lillard contributors. Shapiro explained that it was McCollum, not Lillard, that took control late in the game.
McCollum took the reins in what’s usually considered Dame Time. Aside from two key layups late in the third overtime, Lillard was quiet throughout the fourth quarter and the quartet of overtime periods, taking a backseat to his backcourt partner in crime. As Lillard largely rested on the perimeter for a slate of late-game possessions, McCollum earned the chance to show off his crunch-time chops. The six-year veteran delivered.
Shapiro went on to suggest that the Blazers’ potential goes deeper than Lillard’s heroics.
Portland is unquestionably Lillard territory. His 37-foot buzzer-beater to beat Oklahoma City will live on as one of the greatest moments in franchise history, as will his playoff game-winner to beat the Rockets in 2014. But don’t mistake the Blazers for a one-man band. McCollum is a top-flight sidekick, joining the rest of Portland’s supporting cast to carry the load in a critical Game 3 win. Lillard will have plenty of help as the Blazers eye their first conference finals appearance since 2000.
You can read Shapiro’s full story by visiting Sports Illustrated.