Two things would describe Damian Lilllard in the bubble, the MVP during the games after the NBA reset but an unsatisfied MVP because he feels his efforts are still unappreciated by naysayers.
Lillard has established himself as one of the best shooters the league has ever seen. Only he and Stephen Curry can boast of unbelievable shooting accuracy from distances that many could only dream of making a few shots in an actual game.
Lillard has been a notch short of getting the recognition similar to that of Curry because he couldn’t carry his team deep into the playoffs.
Lillard is definitely the reason why the Portland Trailblazers are consistently in the hunt for a playoffs spot as of late. Except for his rookie year, the Blazers were in the playoffs each time in the last six years.
However, they could not sustain a deep run, reaching the conference finals only once during the span.
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This was highlighted in Lillard’s recent social media exchange with LA Clippers Paul George and Patrick Beverly over who’s sending home who.
Lillard did end the playoff run of these two in two different occasions but ended up losing badly after.
In Game 6 of the 2014 First Round series, Lillard sank a 3-pointer as time expired that gave Portland a series-clinching 99–98 victory over the Houston Rockets that has Beverly in its roster.
His 25 points lifted the Trail Blazers to their first playoff series win since 2000 and the first of seven-straight appearances. His game-winning shot is the first buzzer-beater to win a playoff series since Utah’s John Stockton did the trick against Houston in 1997.
In Game 5 of the 2019 First Round series, Lillard pulled up and hit a 37-foot, game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer over the outstretch arms of George to send the Oklahoma City Thunder home.
The win was the Blazers first playoff series victory in three years. He finished the game with 50 points, a playoff career-high.
Thing is, the Blazers faltered miserably in the next series, both falling each time against supposedly better teams.
The San Antonio Spurs, the eventual champions that year, knocked them off in the 2014 western semifinals to the tune of 4-1.
In the 2019 playoffs, the Blazers survived a gritty Denver Nuggets, 4-3, in the semifinals before falling to the eventual runner-ups that year, Golden State Warriors, by a sweep.
As it stands today, Lillard’s six-year playoff record consists of three first round exits and two semifinals exits to go along with last year’s Western Conference Finals appearance.
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“Dame Time” has been nothing but electric for the Blazers who were chasing a spot for the play in series. He finished the seeding round averaging 37.6 points and 9.6 assists in 41.7 minutes of playing time. He connected 43.6 percent of his three-pointers.
The Blazers concluded a 6-2 record in the seeding round and secured the 8th seed with a down-the-wire victory over the Brooklyn Nets, 134-133, in their last regular season game. That gives them a twice-to-beat advantage over 9th seed Memphis in the play-in series.
This also gives Lillard the perfect opportunity to prove he belongs to the elite historical figures of the league.
First, he has to will his Blazers to knock the Grizzlies out of the playoffs with one more win in two tries.
Then he could push himself to another stratosphere by easing out top seed Los Angeles Lakers, which boasts of two of today’s top five players: Lebron James, who many argue as the greatest of all-time, and Anthony Davis, who the Lakers paid a heavy ransom to acquire.
A huge number of NBA analysts think Lillard and company can pull it off.
Lillard’s surely going to be one of the talented franchise players of all-time. Unfortunately, the respect he longs may never come if his team could not get past a top-seeded team.
An early exit that will be registered in his resume in either of the Blazers’ next two series will just add fuel to the lack of appreciation of “Dame Time” that continues to hound Lillard’s legacy.
By: ARMANDO M. BOLISLIS
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