NBA fans were once again treated to a masterful Damian Lillard performance via the Trail Blazers’ 125-124 victory over the Pelicans on Tuesday. In typical Lillard fashion, he saved his best for last and recorded 50 points in a much-needed win.
After the game, CBS Sports NBA contributor Brad Botkin explained that Lillard has separated himself from a tight pack of MVP hopefuls. Botkin’s analysis of the MVP race focused on Lillard’s production and the hurdles that the Blazers have faced this season.
What Lillard has done in keeping the Blazers in the thick of the Western Conference playoff picture with CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic on the shelf for the majority of the season is the very definition of Most Valuable Player. Joel Embiid, who has the benefit of playing in the East (the Sixers being a No. 1 seed at the moment is probably the boldest bullet point on his resume), is going to be out for maybe as much as a month. Nikola Jokic has been truly amazing, but he hasn’t had to play without his second- and third-best player. Look me in the eye and tell me the Nuggets would be even with the Blazers if Jamal Murray and whoever you think their third-best player is had missed a combined 53 games. Not a chance.
Through 38 outings, Lillard is averaging a career-best 30.5 points per game. Outside of creating his own shot, the former Weber State star is averaging 8.0 assists per game—a rate that matches his career-high average from the 2019-20 season.
Lillard and the Blazers return to action on Thursday with a rematch against the Pelicans.
You can read the full MVP breakdown from Botkin at CBS Sports.