Since drafting Damian Lillard in 2012, the Portland Trail Blazers have been afforded the rare luxury of having a player capable of scoring in any setting. In celebration of Lillard’s historically-clutch 2020-21 season, ESPN Senior Writer Kevin Pelton examined when “Dame Time” is most likely to strike.
"... we've rarely seen anyone score as prolifically in the last three minutes of the fourth quarter as Lillard this season... his 1.45 points per minute in that span were the fourth-highest average for the quarter-century during which play-by-play data is available." https://t.co/aXFoDZ5xmH— Casey Holdahl (@CHold) May 24, 2021
As Pelton notes, Lillard produced the NBA’s most efficient season ever among players that participated in at least 100 “clutch” minutes and took on at least 35 percent of their team’s offensive possessions. Lillard described the game of cat-and-mouse — maneuvering a defense in the first three quarters — to create a storm in the fourth quarter.
“Obviously, the end of game I’ve had success over the course of my career,” Lillard told ESPN. “It hasn’t always been because of this, but I think as my career has progressed a reason why I’m able to do that year after year late in games is because I’m able to kind of break down the defense over the course of the game.
Whether I’m making or missing shots is one thing, but knowing what’s going to be available and how I can get to what I’m going to get to is part of that process.”
In chart listed above, Pelton and Vincent Johnson of ESPN Stats and Info broke down when Lillard is most apt to try to take over games. The rest of the article hits on where the Blazers rank as a team over the last two seasons in clutch situations, as well as how substitution patterns play a role in Lillard’s focus as an aggressor.
You can find the full story at ESPN+ (subscription required).