Sunday, April 14 2024
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In his first game against the Portland Trail Blazers, Damian Lillard put up 31 points, five boards, four assists and two steals as the Milwaukee Bucks pulled off a 26-point comeback, the largest in the NBA this season, for a 108-102 win. 

Still, Lillard’s performance against his former team was not as good as those numbers may suggest. 

He shot 7 of 21 from the field, including a 4-of-12 showing from 3-point land. He missed his first four shots and nine of his first 13. He missed two uncontested layups at the rim — one a blown breakaway and the other a little finger roll at the end of the third quarter that could’ve seized momentum. 

For a good part of the third quarter, every time the Bucks seemed to be making some real headway in their comeback attempt they would step on their own foot. Bobby Portis let multiple balls slip through his fingers and Cam Payne made a boneheaded pass. Lillard accounted for three of these self-inflicted wounds with turnovers, with two coming in a 25-second span where he got himself in the air with nowhere to go. 

Lillard had another chance to really push the momentum in Milwaukee’s favor midway through the fourth but missed a 3-point attempt. Then, with the score tied, he had two opportunities to give the Bucks the lead with a 3 — the first with just over a minute remaining, the next with 25 seconds left. Either would’ve been the perfect storybook ending to his first game against his former team, but, again, he missed both. 

Give Dame credit, though, he did knock down a huge 3 with three minutes remaining to tie the game. After all the work the Bucks did to come back, to finally pull even was a major psychological win. This was probably the shot of the game:

Lillard also got himself to the free-throw line 14 times, making 13. Other than the above shot, this was his biggest contribution to the comeback. He fought his way into the paint and forced contact on some huge possessions. He with a plus-15 in the box score. Again, he had 31 points in 37 minutes. 

Those numbers sound awesome, and they are, but Lillard was not awesome in this game. In fact, he was far from it. You are going to see a lot of headlines suggesting Lillard torched his former team in a wild comeback, but now you know better. That wasn’t really the case. 

Giannis Antetokounmpo, along with two giant Portis 3s and Milwaukee’s defense in the late-third and fourth quarter (led by Giannis and Brook Lopez) won this game. But it was Lillard vs. the Blazers, so he’ll get a lot of the headlines. 



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