The Portland Trail Blazers dispatched the Detroit Pistons 110-104 on Monday night behind a 31-point triple-double from star point guard Damian Lillard. It was the third triple-double of his career and second of the season so far.
While his 13 rebounds came as a surprise, his scoring certainly did not. Lillard is averaging a career-high 32.4 points per game this year. League-wide, that puts him behind only Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (33.4) and Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (33.2) in points per game.
With the Trail Blazers in need of his nightly heroics, Lillard is well within striking distance of the 2023 NBA scoring title. But is that really on his mind?
After Monday’s game, Trail Blazers correspondent Casey Holdahl asked him just that. Here is what Lillard had to say.
I recognize it. I know how close it is for a scoring title but I think the beauty of it is that our team just needs me to continue playing the way that I’m playing so I don’t really have to try to gun for a scoring title. I can just play the way I need to play. I’m in enough pick-and-rolls, I get enough opportunities to attack to where, you know, it’s going to happen. But I’m not going to go out there forcing it to happen. What my job is for our team right now is, you know, the opportunity is there for it to happen but as much as I’m aware of the possibility of it, I’m not going out there hunting it down or chasing it down. I’ve always been a believer in when you operate that way things just don’t work out in your favor in the long run – for me or for the team. So I just try to go out there and have the same mentality about what I need to do for our team right now and just let the chips fall where they fall after that.
If Doncic maintained a clip of 33.4 points per game throughout the rest of the season, Lillard would have to average 36.4 points per game to catch up to him, assuming he played in all 17 of the Trail Blazers remaining games. While a tall order, we just watched Lillard average 39 points per game for the month of February, so it’s not out of the question.
Regardless, Lillard’s focus is on winning, not necessarily scoring. Although, given Portland’s lack of defense and lack of other healthy contributors, the two are inherently connected.