Last night Lillard hit his second game winning 3 at the buzzer in as many games. Portland improved their record to 22-4 and sit alone atop the Western Conference.
Many analysts, including myself, picked Portland to maybe finish around the 6,7,8 seed in the Western Conference. No one predicted this hot start to the season, or that Portland’s big man LaMarcus Aldridge would be having an MVP type season. Aldridge is averaging 24 points per game along with 11 rebonds. The 6’11” power forward can do it in the post or drop back and hit the 20 footer.
Aldridge has been there with Portland for some time and has been putting up similar numbers his whole career.
So why is Portland now the top team in the West?
There are many things that you can attribute to the success of the Trailblazers; good fundamentals, unselfish play, rebounding, and the ability to not give up in games. The addition of two players have been the real reason Portland has turned their franchise around and started winning. That would be point guard Damian Lillard, and center Robin Lopez.
Lopez gives Portland the big man they need in the paint. He averages 2 blocks per game and over 10 rebounds. He is scrappy around the boards, and is able to ward off 2-3 men to get the offensive or defensive rebound. His defense has been stellar and in a conference with some of he top big men in the game (Dwight Howard, Kevin Love, Pau Gasol) he has been able to contain them and force them to take shots that are uncomfortable. What his presence brings to the Blazers cannot be shown in statistics.
Damian Lillard went to school here in Utah at Weber St. He was drafted first round by Portland, and was unanimously named NBA rookie of the year in 2013. He is the type of point guard Portland has needed since Damonn Stoudmaire was on the team in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. In the two years he has played in the NBA, Lillard has averaged over 20 points per game, 6.5 assists, 4 rebounds, and 1 steal. His shooting percentages behind the arc are impressive at 42%, while averaging 91% from the free throw line. He is able to split defenders and finish strong around the basket, while being able to take shots from well beyond the 3-point line. His presence causes disruption in the defense and forces his opponents to the leave their man to help cover him. Lillard has also been able to prove that he is the man who should have the ball in the remaining seconds of any game. He can make the big shot, or dish it to one of his teammates. He is fast becoming a superstar in the NBA and one of the top 5 points guards currently playing.
With Lillard, Lopez and Aldridge on the floor, Portland is a serious contender for not only the Western Conference Crown, but for the NBA Championship.