The Portland Trailblazers are getting ready to take on the Denver Nuggets in a win or go home game seven. The Blazers were able to force a game seven through the stellar play of Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, and Rodney Hood, as the trio accounted for 87 of the Trailblazers’ 119 points.
Damian Lillard has definitely been one of the biggest stories in the 2019 playoffs dating back to how he sent the Oklahoma City Thunder home in the first round. Lillard with the clock winding down called off a screen and decided to go one on one with Paul George. Dame side step to his right raised up and launch a three from 35 feet over Paul George and it went in. After the buzzer sounded you can see Dame waving goodbye to the Thunder as he just ended their season.
“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
According to Dames trainer’s Phil Beckner, it has been a shot that they have been working on ever since the Blazers were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs last season.
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.”
Someone that has been keeping a close eye on both Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum is Basketball Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas. The former Pistons guard and his backcourt mate Joe Dumars along with the rest of the Bad Boys Pistons inflicted a lot of punishment on their opponents during the 1980s on their way to winning back to back NBA Championships in 1989 and 1990. Dumars and Thomas are arguably on the best backcourt tandems in NBA history. Like Dumars and Thomas back in the day, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum doesn’t play in a big city like New York or Los Angeles but have been able to showcase their talents anyway.
In a recent phone interview with Isiah Thomas, I asked the Hall of Famer how much does Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. remind him of Dumars and himself?
“Thomas replied, Both those guys are so good, and I love watching them. The enjoyment that I get out of watching Dame and C.J., and the enjoyment I get out of watching Steph [Curry] and Klay [Thompson]. If Joe [Dumars] and I provided people that much joy when they watched us play, then I am honored and happy that we were able to do that. Every time I watch those two guys play, I am amazed by what they are doing out on the floor and what they did out on the floor.“
He would continue:
“Just look at the shoot that Dame made over Paul George two of the most dramatic shots I have seen in the playoffs. One Dame Lillard was standing there at half court knocking down the three and waving goodbye. You are talking about dramatic, poetic, and just beautiful, and the second one came from Allen Iverson. In the 2001 NBA Finals when he crossed over Ty Lue in the corner made the three and stepped over him. With me being a little guy, I admire what the little guys do. Those two shots are the most dramatic shots that I enjoyed from a style, artistic, and gamesmanship standpoint. So, when you talk about Dame and C.J., they are beautiful to watch, and Joe and I honored to be compared to those guys.“
Someone else who has been watching both C.J. and Dame is former Blazer guard Bonzi Wells. In a phone interview two weeks ago, He was asked about both players’ performance in this year’s playoffs.
“Them two boys are killers. I love C.J.’s game because he complements Dame’s game. It is like Yin and Yang and they complement each other’s game very well. CJ is very smooth and a great shooter and has a deceptive handled, that people don’t really understand. He gets to his spot well and that is just his game. It’s awesome and when you think about a guy like Dame. What he is doing in the playoffs is unheard of especially in a Blazers’ uniform,“ said Former Blazer Bonzi Wells.
Wells would continue:
He is doing things that we thought we had some good players and guys who came through there, but Dame is taking it to another level. When I see that crowd, it gives me chills because I remember the days that we use to rock it and that is what it is all about. I know the buzz in Portland is crazy and that is thanks to Dame, C.J. McCollum, and the rest of the crew,“ Well said.
The Blazers and Nuggets will battle it out for the right to face the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals on Mother’s Day on ABC at 3:30 PM EST.