#NBA Breakdown: Anatomy of Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard’s Game Winner

damian lillard game winner

You have to give it to Portland’s star point guard, former Weber State guard Damian Lillard, for his game-winning three-pointer as time expired last Friday. It was great, timely, and dramatic. It was Portland’s first series win since 2000, a stretch of 14 long years for Trail Blazers fans. Here’s the play in its entirety:

Let’s break down the last two plays of the game, first Houston’s iso/hero ball to Lillard’s three, which was a team effort.

Houston’s James Harden can score; everyone knows that. But, he’s best in transition where the defense isn’t set or off of a pick-and-roll where he gets a full head of steam and goes to the hoop and does the harm from there. He can also shoot 3s very well, a 36.6% clip this year and 36.9% overall in his career (via Basketball-Reference.com). Yet, this play used none of his strengths.

harden shot isoHarden gets the ball and winds the clock down. He does not get a ball screen and does not get a pick either to roll; it seems everyone is standing in place (signified by the yellow arrows), typical hero ball and iso ball that we see a lot these days.

harden shot contestHarden (highlighted by the yellow arrow) ends up shooting a contested, long two-pointer that falls short. The Blazers defender on him, Wes Matthews, had a good contest on the shot and did his job.

harden shot rebound

But, Robin Lopez could not handle the rebound (yellow arrow) and Chandler Parsons was lucky by way of where he was under the hoop (green arrow).

harden shot rebound scorre

Parsons then lays it in (green arrow) which means Houston goes ahead by two. Robin Lopez, who has a penchant for flying around with little contact like players do these days, flies out of bounds (yellow arrow).

Now to Lillard’s shot. It’s an inbounds play from the left side. Lillard, shooting guard Wes Matthews and Mo Williams (both good three point shooters) are lined up on the far right side on the wing. From left to right for the Blazers, it’s Matthews, Williams and Lillard. For the Rockets, it’s Harden, Beverley and Parsons.

lillards GW shot pre play

Whistle blows, ball is handed to Nicolas Batum (an underrated piece on the Blazers roster), and the play starts (he’s the yellow arrow at the top of the screenshot below).

lillards GW play whistle

Matthews sets a screen on Lillard’s defender Chandler Parsons. Williams fakes a screen, which does not seem to slow down Parsons, but it could’ve made him think twice about Lillard’s movement. Those screens/distractions are represented by the green arrows and both Lillard’s and Parson’s movement toward the inbounds pass is represented by the yellow arrows. Lillard sprints toward the left wing and Parsons trails him. Parsons is guarding against any shot close to the three-point line.

lillards GW play double screen

Now Williams, after running a brief and almost non-existent interference and/or screen (green arrow) on Parsons (the second yellow arrow), trails Parsons. It’s apparent that this play was meant for Lillard and he’s going to get to his spot (signified by the first yellow arrow).

lillards gw play pass

Lillard gets to his spot, catches the ball that cannot be a bounce pass (yellow arrow) and Parsons (green arrow) can’t close quickly enough, which means the rest is history: The game-winner and time to celebrate.

damian lillard cold face

Cold blooded, young blood.

lillard gw play crowd shot

Congratulations Portland, great teamwork and onto the next one. You deserve it.


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About Spencer Irvine

Fun loving, D.C. area sports fan, which means I'm frustrated and still can't get a grip on what a win truly means (or a championship for that matter).

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