Damian Lillard: Failure in Success

Observations from the Trailblazers 134 -131 victory over the Mavericks

“Between the idea and the reality…falls the shadow” –T.S. Eliot

It took a historic night from Damian Lillard, but the Portland Trailblazer’s bubble dream of making the playoffs is looking less aspirational and more just plain factual after their victory over the Dallas Mavericks.  Lillard, who went for 51 against the 76ers Sunday, joined Wilt Chamberlain Tuesday evening as the only other player with three 60-point games in one season in NBA history.

Dame is red hot and as determined as any competitor in the league’s history, but Lillard’s transcendent performances in Orlando are all tinged with the same suspicion…The suspicion, that it took every last one of Dame’s 51 points to beat a 76ers team without its two best players. That the Clippers bench could close out a game against the Trailblazers simply because Dame had a good but not great performance. That it took 9 three-pointers, a nearly 42% usage rate, and 61 points career-high to sneak away with a victory against a Dallas team whose defense has been nearly as bad as Portland’s in the bubble.

Dame hit shots, he usually does and there were plenty of opportunities against a Maverick’s defense that at times appeared designed to give Lillard open shots.  Take a look at these back to back possessions.


Porzingis drops so far back in the pick n’ roll coverage that Lillard is able to just walk into open shots.  Listen, if your gonna guard Damian Lillard with Trey Burke and not even passively show on the pick n’ roll coverages he just might score 61 points on you. Later in the 4th quarter, the Mavericks did put some length on the ball (Kidd-Gilchrist here and later Finney-Smith), but Porzingis coverages remained too soft.

Carmelo Anthony put up 26 points and 8 rebounds against the Mavericks and for stretches appeared to be the team’s only other credible offensive option.  Carmelo also seemed to enjoy being guarded by Justin Jackson.



Here’s a look at Melo and Lillard’s shot chart compared to the rest of the Blazers.

A visual representation of the rest of the Trailblazers shot attempts, 19/49(38.8%).A visual representation of Lillard and Anthony's combined FG attempts, 27/49(55.1%).










If the Trailblazers get there wish, a first-round series against the Lakers it won’t come this easy. While the Lakers have had their problems with scoring point guards this season, they’re going to do everything they can to get the ball out of Dame’s hands.  Anthony Davis will not be dropping back off the screen and just watching the ball go thru the net.

As the defensive anchor for the New Orleans Pelican during the 2018 playoffs, Davis played a pivotal role in an aggressive trapping scheme that frustrated Lillard all series. While the addition of Melo and the ascendance of Gary Trent Jr. could provide the shooting the Trailblazers have lacked in the past they don’t answer the essential question of a potential Lakers series. Who will guard Lebron James? The idea of Damian Lillard is worth the Lakers worry, but what about the reality that is the rest of this Trailblazers team.


  • The only thing that could stop Kristaps Porzingis was Kristaps Porzingis. He fouled out at the 1:18 mark with the game tied 130-130 after scoring 36 points on 71% shooting and 7 three-pointers.
  • Trey Burke had some nice moments as a shot creator for the Mavericks in their non-Luka minutes, particularly with Porzingis. It’s hard to imagine they’ll be too many minutes for Burke with Seth Curry’s return and shortened playoff rotations. But, he is a guard on a team coached by Rick Carlisle team, so who knows.  Burke, finished Tuesday’s game with 12 points and 9 assist in 31 minutes.

Written by Shay Youngblood

Shay lives in New Orleans and writes about Basketball and other American arts.

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