The Trail Blazers have amassed an up-and-down 4-5 record with CJ McCollum out of the lineup. With McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic out with injuries, Damian Lillard is tasked with keeping Portland’s overall record afloat. But Lillard cannot play every minute of every game. That reality caught ESPN analyst Zach Lowe’s attention in his weekly column.
In a segment titled “buckle up when Dame rests”, Lowe examined what occurs when Lillard heads to the bench. Lowe pointed to the drastically different scoring numbers that unfold with Lillard on and off the floor.
Portland in this stretch has scored almost 120 points per 100 possessions with Lillard on the floor — well above the Milwaukee Bucks’ league-best offense. Portland averages about 103 points per 100 possessions for the season with Lillard on the bench, and that number was even worse during this eight-game stretch before the Blazers perked up in Philly.
Lowe continued by highlighting what the on-court action looks like when Lillard takes a seat on the sideline.
The Blazers in those minutes are just trying to steal time. If they break even, or come close, they have a chance to win. They slow the game, let one of Rodney Hood, Carmelo Anthony, and Gary Trent Jr. go one-on-one, and hope turnover-free iso-ball manufactures enough points to keep the game in reach.
The McCollum-less Blazers return to action on Tuesday with a return home to face the Magic.
You can read Lowe’s full column at ESPN+ (subscription required).