After the Portland Trailblazers were swept last season by the New Orleans Pelicans in the first round of the playoffs. Right after they were eliminated from the playoffs, Damian Lillard began his road to improving his game in the off-season by enlisting the services of Phil Beckner. Lillard was looking to improve his game and wanted Beckner to help after the Pelicans were able to limit him to 35.2 percent shooting from the floor during the series.
Beckner instructed Lillard to spend his off-season working on expanding his shooting range from 30 feet until it felt like second nature as it was from 22-23.75 feet, which is the measurements of the NBA three-point arc. If Damian Lillard could improve his range it would force defenders to guard him out there and spread the floor as Stephen Curry does, and Beckner ultimately thought it could help set him apart from the other elite players in the league. Beckner has coached Lillard ever since their days at Weber State.
“Guys like Steph, you have to worry about guarding when they take one step over the half-court line,” Beckner said. “When you do that, it’s another weapon that makes everything else easier. It opens up everything spacing- and pick-and-roll-wise.”
“Extending his range was the biggest thing we worked on all offseason and throughout the season,” Beckner said. “The amount he works at it is almost sickening. He’s a lunatic.”
In the first round of this year’s playoffs, Damian showcased that he was very comfortable shooting from deep three-point range. He was able to hit all five shots he attempted from 30-39 feet, per NBA advanced stats.
“He’s been on a steady incline,” said Beckner. “I didn’t think he’d be this good at it this fast, but tell him he can’t do something and he’ll do it.”
With ten seconds left in regulation on April 23rd, 2019, Lillard decided to wave everyone off as he left the clock wind down. Lillard would hit Paul George with a side step to the right and launched it from 37 feet and won the game.
After the game. Paul George was asked by Berry Tramel of the Oklahoman if there is anything a defender can do with those 36-37 foot three-point shots and at some point, you have to let a guy shoot that don’t you?
In which George responded by saying “That’s a bad shot. I don’t care what anybody says. That’s a bad shot. But hey, he made it. That story will be told. It was a bad shot. You live with that.”
Damian Lillard would later see George’s comments on Twitter and would respond with “LOL”
— Damian Lillard (@Dame_Lillard) April 24, 2019
The Thunder will have to try to regroup in the off-season and try again next season.