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Is Damian Lillard playing the best basketball of his career?

Mario Balint
TOP CONTRIBUTOR
Feature
Modified 02 Feb 2020, 08:09 IST

Los Angeles Lakers v Portland Trail Blazers
Los Angeles Lakers v Portland Trail Blazers

The month of January brought to us Damian Lillard at his best, as the Portland Trail Blazers' superstar is having arguably one of the best periods of play of his career. He has scored at least 34 points in each of the last 7 matches that he has played, and if Portland will make the playoffs this year it will be mostly due to his performances on the court.

Let's take a look at how Lillard has performed since he went off against the Dallas Mavericks on the 17h of January:

at Dallas Mavericks (17 January) - 34 points, 10 assists

at Oklahoma City Thunder (18 January) - 34 points, 6 assists

vs Golden State Warriors (20 January) - 61 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists

vs Dallas Mavericks (23 January) - 47 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds

vs Indiana Pacers (26 January) - 50 points, 13 assists, 6 rebounds

vs Houston Rockets (29 January) - 36 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds

at Los Angeles Lakers (31 January) - 48 points, 10 assists, 9 rebounds

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Lillard's great month might have gone a bit under the radar, as some of Portland's matches from this month were not on national television in the United States, therefore his performances did not have such a big impact on the average NBA viewer. Still, the storyline that is in progress in Portland right now is great, as Lillard is more or less putting the team on his back as he tries to get it to the playoffs.

Portland Trail Blazers v Denver Nuggets
Portland Trail Blazers v Denver Nuggets

The Trail Blazers have been unlucky this season, as they have never been fully fit, missing a lot of important players in key parts of the year, but Lillard is seemingly trying to get over these problems all by himself, with his great performances.

We can argue at this point, that this might be the best year of Lillard's career, in terms of his regular season performances. He is averaging a career-high in points, and even a career-high in assists. Because of CJ McCollum's injury, and because other important Portland players missed a lot of games this year, Lillard has had to create more than usual on the court. What became obvious this year is that he can be just as great as a playmaker for the Blazers, as he can be as a shooter for the team.

In case the Portland Trail Blazers are going to reach the playoffs this year, this will probably become Damian Lillard's most memorable and impactful regular season. With all the injuries and bad luck they had this season, Portland should not theoretically make the playoffs, as there are stronger teams in the Western Conference that are fighting for those postseason spots. Even so, with Lillard's performances, Portland have a fair chance of reaching their goal for this season.

What Lillard has showcased more than anything this season is his leadership, as well as his commitment to this Portland Trail Blazers team. He is a legend for this organization at this point, and there is no doubt about that. Portland had an amazing season last year when they reached the Western Conference Finals, against the Golden State Warriors, but Lillard seems to not want to peak in that spot, as he came back this year as motivated as ever.

Portland Trail Blazers v Dallas Mavericks
Portland Trail Blazers v Dallas Mavericks
“It means something to me to just not fold,” Lillard told The Athletic. “Let’s get ourselves together and find a way and, when the end of the season gets here, say, ‘Once again, we are here (in the playoffs).’”

The storyline of Damian Lillard trying to get Portland to the playoffs is going to be for sure one of the most interesting narratives of this second half of the season. Posting career-high numbers in almost all departments of his game, the All-Star player might actually be able to reach that goal.

Published 02 Feb 2020, 08:09 IST
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