Damian Lillard has crossed the 30-point threshold on three occasions in the Trail Blazers’ opening-round series agains the Nuggets. In those outings, Lillard has balanced his search for space and contact on the offensive end. Over the weekend, ESPN’s Kevin Pelton delivered a closer look at the players that struggle to maintain a similar balance.
In Pelton’s feature, he explained that foul-dependent players often fail to maintain their output in the playoffs.
As expected, there’s a common theme here: players who tend to draw fouls by baiting unsuspecting opponents with upfakes or rip-through moves. Those kinds of tricks are more effective against inexperienced defenders who are weeded out come playoff time, while opponents also get multiple games to adjust and avoid fouling over the course of a series.
After outlining the hurdles that James Harden and DeMar DeRozan have faced in the past, Pelton highlighted that Joel Embiid and Lillard have found a way to maintain their efficiency as opposing defenses tighten.
Joel Embiid, Harden and Damian Lillard all scored with above-average eFG% during the regular season (league average is .538), but they simply excel at converting when they get to the line — Harden less frequently with the Brooklyn Nets than previously with Houston. Predictably, all three have continued to play well so far.
Regardless of his 10-point outing against the Nuggets in Game 4, Lillard is still averaging 30.8 points per game in the 2021 postseason.
You can read the full story from Pelton at ESPN+ (subscription required).