Although a rarity, games like this from Lillard can happen at any time. That’s part of what makes him so dangerous on the court. Trail Blazers Head Coach Chauncey Billups recognizes that as a luxury few teams have, and discussed Lillard’s explosion with reporters after the game.
There’s very few coaches that have the luxury to have a guy like that, you know, that can get you 40, 50, 60 at any time. For me, I’m just kind of riding and kind of seeing how hot he might be at the time. Because he goes on these stretches a lot of times and you like, ‘Okay.’ Because really I thought he was tired at the end of the third, and he was so hot that I came to the timeout and I said, ‘How you feeling? Because I really want to get you out of here for the last two minutes.’ And GP (Gary Payton II) and everybody was like, ‘No! No, let him go!’ I said, ‘Man, this could be a really good game at the end. I don’t want to have him tired because he got 45, 50.’ So he said, ‘No, I’m good, I’m good.’ And, again, I got to trust guys in those moments.
But from a level of belief as a team, what does that do for you guys?
Well, it does everything. I mean, I think a lot of times I’ve talked with a lot of you guys and said we defer a lot of times because of his greatness. And everybody kind of sit and waiting on Dame to go ahead and take it over. Just do what he always does. And sometimes it throws us out of rhythm. That’s just how great he is and that’s the confidence that everybody has in him. And then sometimes he’s like, ‘Alright, now y’all go to work.’ So, it’s nip and tuck sometimes but to have a weapon like that, Jason, is a luxury that not a lot of people have, and I’m just happy for Dame that he’s playing so dang well after really getting his self healthy – mind, body, and soul – last year and this summer.
Lillard, who missed most of last season recovering from abdominal surgery, is now averaging a career-high 30.1 points per game, and has dropped at least 40 points on seven separate occasions in 2022-23.