Damian Lillard’s 71-point burst feels empty

Damian Lillard is the NBA's Sisyphus, the ball is his rock.

Damian Lillard is the NBA’s Sisyphus, the ball is his rock.
Photo: AP

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around, does it make a sound? What if it drops to 71? That age-old question describes how empty Damian Lillard’s exploding score feels – but not because of anything Lillard herself has done wrong.

Since the calendar moves to 2023, Lillard is the top scorer in the league 210 more points than any other player in the Association, he’s also a Portland loyalist, clinging to the Trail Blazers so tightly that his knuckles turn white. Unfortunately, Dame’s Time is running out, and underneath the eye-catching stat line, last night was a reminder that he will soon begin to decline in a franchise that may not have grown into a championship team. in this timeline.

Saturday night was just the continuation of Lillard’s string of scoring streaks. The emptiness of it all is due in part to the circumstances surrounding Lillard’s performance. For one, most countries have missed it directly. But that’s nothing new for Dame. By the time the warning had spread to the east coast that he had scored 41 points before halftime (thanks to a long logo three) it was 10:14 on Sunday night.

But even Lillard’s prolific scoring ability feels like it has grown in popularity throughout the tournament. Nowadays, every superstar seems to have one of these games. Clippers and the Kings mix for 314 just one night before.

The once-rare individual scoring phenomenon has become so common this season that they’re starting to lose their luster. Donovan Mitchell hit 71 points this year in an overtime win over the Chicago Bulls last month. Lillard herself has now had five performances scoring more than 60 goals in her career, including one earlier this year.

The opponent matters slightly too. Houston’s “Trauma for Wembanyama” tour blunted the impact of Lillard’s offensive barrage — Portland won by 17 over an outmatched AAU squad. The Rockets have spent most of this season playing Rucker Park defense, so it’s never surprising anymore when some salivating superstar’s nuclear reactor ignites against them.

However, 2022-23 is the first NBA regular season to feature multiple 70-point performances, and both came in the past month. There have been 21 50-point games this season and the league appears on track to shatter the record of 23, which was set four years ago and which was nearly broken during the lockout shortened-campaign. These scoring outbursts are already blurring together.

Meanwhile, Portland’s championship aspirations fell by the wayside. Despite Lillard’s radioactive glow, the Blazers are only 10-10 in their last 20 games and are outside the play-in at 29-31. Lillard’s 71 is a nice superlative on his Hall of Fame resume, but the memories of it will fade if this season continues on its current trajectory. Dame has spent all season trying to get anyone to listen. He won his third 3-point shooting contest, tying him with Larry Bird, and proclaimed himself the second best shooter in tournament history.

Lillard has pledged to win in Portland, but the momentum of the current franchise is leaning against him.

Over time, Lillard became embodied as Jay Z confessed in “Moment of Clarity”: “If the skills were to sell, truth be told, I would probably be Talib Kweli in the lyrics.” wise talent, Lilacs Have was in Steph Curry’s zip code for a decade before Ja Morant led a new generation of ball-dominant point defenders and overtook him in the point defender hierarchy. Lillard was a mix of Curry’s long shot and Morant’s athleticism, but it was never used properly. The last time Lillard achieved an MVP was in 2018, when he placed fourth in the poll. In that post-season, Portland was wiped out by New Orleans in the first round.

Unless Portland forces Lillard out in his late years, he will be one of the few exclusive superstars in league history. In doing so, he runs the risk of condemning himself to more than just being an inferior.The obnoxious Talib Kweli, but also the contemporary Dave Bing of Portland.

Bing was one of the first heliocentric scorers in tournament history, 2nd pick in 1962, even winning the scoring title, was was named to the All-Star Team seven times, and was easily voted to the NBA’s 50th Anniversary Team, but spent his prime years on the failing Pistons franchise never making it past the Conference Semifinals. Bing is so revered in Detroit that He was elected Mayor of the city in 2009 after Kwame Kilpatrick resigned because of his role in a criminal fraud conspiracy. Outside of Detroit, however, Bing’s legacy was swept up in a wave of loss and he was quickly swept aside after Isiah Thomas sent them into the fray for the title..

Lillard’s legacy as a cold-blooded shooter is still intact, but his ceiling must be higher than empty goalscorers in a failed season. Post-transaction deadline, these are the ingredients that Lillard is working on. But he’s already starting to burn, so maybe it’s time to check what else he can concoct in Portland’s final 22 games.


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