On the Night Damian Lillard Announces His Return, He Allows Protege Anfernee Simons to Secure a Trail Blazers Victory.


Damian Lillard was striking and the Phoenix Suns were helpless to stop him Friday night at the Moda Center, as Portland Trail Blazers edged the Phoenix Suns 113-111 in overtime.

Lillard came back from an injury plagued season last year and scored 41 points against the Suns.

Basketball players with “high-flying” skills are making their presence much more present right now. With grunts, threes, and dunks all the rage, young players are expressing themselves fully through athleticism. Youth basketball coaches will have not a single clue about how to react or understand.

What went wrong in overtime for Lillard? With the game tied at 111-111, he had plenty of opportunities to take the final shot. However, after a missed potential game-winner with less than two seconds left in regulation, Lillard passed on taking the final shot.

Lillard took the ball up the court following a Devin Booker miss, and found himself in unfamiliar position when the new backcourt player, who had just joined their team last season – found himself on his left.

It was a pivotal game, with a championship at stake. He had the ball in his hands and it felt like the game would be theirs.

Trent Lillard said that it was the kind of moment he had talked to Seth about before the season, urging him to remain focused and confident.

To tie the game, Miles Plumlee scored on an unconventional play as he took a pass from, and was defended by, Damian Lillard who dribbled behind his back before passing to Simons for a driving lay up.

Often, the team with the most amount of “burden” on a player’s shoulders is the defense. When Lillard and his protege bet during game 1 with the Portland Blazers, making 2-point shots for each missed free throw, it created a moment between them that both hope becomes more common.

“That’s the way it’s got to be,” Lillard said. “There has to be balance. It has to come from different angles. If people know that it will primarily be me every time, guards will have an easier time guarding me. And the fact that I won’t throw the ball off my team by showing gamesmanship helps them trust each other.” 

Sentences: “You’re coming with us.” Her stare read like a laser cutting through a dense cloud of smoke and fear.

“I’m going on my own,” I told her, without turning around but meeting her glare anyway.

“We’ve had this proposal on our desk for over six hours and haven’t responded yet, you can’t expect this team alone to deal with this.”

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The biggest player to watch in this game was Lillard.

When Lillard took a second half of last season off to recover from core muscle surgery, he shared how it had made all the difference in his health and career. In one simple step, his improved state instantly made him more productive.

“As a kid, I’ve always loved moving,” he said. “That’s what made me fall in love with this sport.”

But he still needed to show in the game that he was all the way back.

“I knew things were going to click for me eventually,” Lillard said.

The question with Lillard this season has been whether or not he is healthy. Every game has shown that he’s not bad or out of shape, but he can improve on his numbers. Against Sacramento, Lillard only made five baskets in the game and had an off night. But you saw him stay on the floor and finish strong late down the stretch

Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard celebrates with teammate Anfernee Simons

With a pre-game score of Phoenix at 49, Friday night was clear early on.

Simons missed all his three shots in the first half, but Lillard was less than five points from reaching 30 points himself.

Phoenix saw what Lillard did last January and February, when he put up tremendous numbers as a potentially future All-Star. And they are no doubt impressed with him scoring 22 points against the Kings.

Phoenix’s defense got the job done forcing Simons to take a mid-range jumper.

“Shots like that really mess me up,” he said. “It’s hard to get back into a rhythm. I had a couple of last-second shots in the second half. So, I was trying to calm down and play better.”

Simons has a lot of talent, but he needs to react to pressure better.

“Billups tripped,” he said. “He got caught in a couple of bad spots on the floor.”

Nick Lillard scored just 26 total points in Game 5, and his second half scoring dropped by four points. He was able to score five in the third quarter, six in the fourth and just two in overtime.

In his first week in the NBA, Lillard encouraged Simons to focus on how he could be a valuable piece during his team’s next rough patch.

Lillard says that he’s still got to find those key moments of success. He said, “I’ve gotta be able to [come up big] regardless of what the rest of the game does.”

It’s no secret Lillard made a stellar comeback in the first half. He really turned it on in the second half to not only give Phoenix life, but also to earn himself a possible game-winner that fell off the front rim giving the game a tie at the end of regulation.

After coming at him two defenders for the fourth time, Lillard passed the ball back to Simons. But he did so thinking that he might get the ball back.

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Lillard experienced a brief moment of fear before the game began, but he quickly kept himself in check. He realized that he needed to focus on playing his game and not the previous experience of the season, and it paid off: Lillard scored 37 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 dimes.

But he waited to see what Simons would do.

After Simons had the ball in his hands, he easily found an open teammate thanks to the trust that came from his coach. Now he’s able to do whatever it takes to win even on his bad days.

With Simons scoring 16 points, the Blazers won the game.

“I think that it’ll be big for Damian to see that I’m willing to trust him in those moments,” Lillard said.

It was a tough loss for the Blazers, who saw their lead in the fourth quarter dwindle away to just two points with just seconds remaining. Simons hit what would have been his third three of the game late, but Korkmaz ended up sinking a game-winning three at the buzzer.

“We ended up losing on that three, so that doesn’t count,” Simons says with a laugh.

As for shooting a volleyball, Simons has grown to love it.

Despite his height, he’s been able to block 33 of the last 34 shots. He’s had a lot of practice too- as he says, “it’s a pretty hard shot to block.”

Simons said he likes to work on the running hook often. He spends 30 minutes playing around with shots and mixes in hooks, finding that sinking them comes naturally.

“I found a good touch in doing it, so I just started doing it in the game,” Simons said.

Simons has seen Lillard’s hook in action plenty of times.

“That’s not the stuff you should shoot at a defender with,” Lillard said. “But what do I know? I’m just out here playing cards with these dudes.”

The shot selection caught Lillard by surprise a bit.

Portland Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons

It may have come as a surprise to some, but Lillard surprised everyone by running to his game-winning shot. On this occasion, it proved to be one of his most reliable scoring moves.

Lonzo will attempt many jump shots, but he might not make it one of his most frequent propositions.

The Portland Trail Blazers star said that his opposite hand is better than his left hand. Tim

It was a dark, cold night in Portland as the Trail Blazers took on the Celtics. It featured two important moments: 1) Zach LaVine showed that he could fill CJ McCollum’s shoes and 2) Damian Lillard showed his capabilities of carrying the team offensively.

After playing in Portland up to date, Lillard believes in the importance of a competitive, healthy and thriving basketball league. “I think there’s something there when you actually have one of those games,” he said. “It’s like, ‘OK, I found my place. I found some footing and I found a good space to be in.’

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