Lillard: Bad Night, Not My Worst ... Why?
ORLANDO – Shooting wise, Damian Lillard had his worst performance as an NBA player. The Portland Trail Blazers guard finished tonight's contest going one-for-16 from the field in route to four points and 12 assists.
He has been held to two field goals three times this season, but never one.
When the Orlando Magic (15-36) broke a 12-game losing streak by dominating the glass and attacking the paint in a 110-104 win over the Trail Blazers (25-26) at Amway Center, many wondered how the rookie sensation was handling this loss and his unusual stat-sheet.
Well, there's no need to worry because being the professional that Lillard is, he isn't the least worried.
“I believe in myself,” Lillard told CSNNW.com. “I don't think this means that the next game, the same thing is going to happen. I don't lose any confidence from it. I know who I am and I believe in myself. I'm going to be out there a lot of minutes and I'm going to have a chance to shoot the ball and the team is going to need me to. So there's no reason for me to sit here and put my head down about one game when I've had plenty of games when I've shot really well.”
Lillard spoke in his usual calm tone. Not flustered or aggravated, he's simply in sync with what a 82-game season is all about.
“Life goes on,” he said. “That's how I feel about it. Everything is going to go on. We have another game Tuesday, we got another game in New Orleans. We can win eight games in a row another time. I don't think it's do or die. Life goes on. The season goes on. It doesn't stop because I have a bad shooting night.”
Again, he spoke as calm and as thoughtful as he could have.
At the conclusion of the game, Trail Blazers veteran forward Jared Jeffries went over to Lillard as they were headed towards the locker room and put his arms around Lillard to offer words of encouragement.
“I told him it's just one game,” Jeffries said. “That's the beauty of this league is that we have another game in two days. I told him to go in the locker room and be as mad as you want for a couple of minutes, but when you're done being mad, this thing is over.”
Lillard started the game off missing his first nine shots. His first made field goal didn't come until the 4:54 mark in the third quarter. He was 0-for-eight from downtown as well, only the fifth time he hasn't drained a three-pointer in a game.
Clearly not the typical outing Lillard presents to the world on a nightly basis, but that's exactly the reason why Jeffries felt he needed to say something to the team's franchise point guard.
“I had to because it's tough to see one of your teammates, especially a kid as good as he is that's a good person and a good player, go through a night like tonight,” Jeffries said. “A game we really felt like we needed, he probably put pressure on himself that he shouldn't have. But he'll be fine.”
After viewing that embrace from Jeffries, you might have thought Lillard was really taking it hard. Make no mistake about it, he was highly upset that they didn't come out here and take care of business, but as his performance goes, he was moving on.”
“It's good to hear from him (Jeffries), but in my head, I didn't really have a choice but to put it behind me,” Lillard said. “That was it.”
Enough about offense, let's get into defense.
Over the last three games, the Trail Blazers have allowed the Dallas Mavericks to shoot 47 percent, the Houston Rockets shot a whopping 60 percent, and tonight the Magic reached 50 percent.
“We should all be concerned when you're losing right now and it's time to win,” Aldridge said. “So I think everybody should be concerned.”
The Magic lived in the paint totaling 60 points and had a clear advantage in second chance points, 15-7. The defense has been an issue, to say the least.
“They were unselfish and moved the ball well,” Trail Blazers Head Coach Terry Stotts said. “That's three games in a row where defensively we've been a step slow and it's hard to win games like that.”
The Trail Blazers were out-rebounded 50-38 and trailed in the offensive rebounding category 17-5. Nikola Vucevic ended the game with 17 points and a game-high 19 rebounds in 30 minutes. Reserve Gustavo Ayon contributed 16 points and pulled down 11 boards.
The Magic simply outworked the Trail Blazers.
“I thought the Magic played harder,” Stotts said. “They outplayed us at both ends and they deserve to win.”
There is only two games remaining on this six-game trip and a three-game losing skid could not have come at a worse time with the Miami Heat on deck Tuesday. The opportunity is there to exit this trip .500, but that would mean taking down the Heat for the second time this season and then handling the New Orleans Hornets the night after.
“Why not?” Nicolas Batum asked. “We beat them [Heat] before.”
Aldridge did his best to keep his team in the game leading the way with 21 points, six rebounds and five assists. Batum scored 19 points, grabbed eight rebounds and dished out six assists. Wesley Matthews provided 14 points.
JJ Redick continued his stellar play whenever he plays against the Trail Blazers erupting for 22 points on nine-of-13 shooting off the bench.
The Magic led at the half 55-49. In their previous 12 losses, they have never been up after the first 24 minutes.
The Trail Blazers are now two games back of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference standings.