The Warriors erased another big deficit to beat the Blazers in Portland to take a 3-0 series lead and all but assure themselves of a fifth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals. There’ll be a lot of discussion on where exactly the Warriors stand in the annals of NBA history because if the Bucks also take care of business there’s not gonna be a whole lot else to talk about for about a week, but for now the prevailing question is what the heck has happened to Damian Lillard?
Lillard finished this evening’s game shooting 5-19 for 19 points, and the performance was actually worse than those numbers indicate — he hit two late three-pointers when the game was essentially out of reach. Beyond his poor shooting, he had an oddly passive demeanor, appearing to have his spirit broken by double-teams and not outwardly fighting to do something about them. He also had five turnovers tonight. Overall, he finished with a +/- of -23 in a game his team lost by 11.
And it wasn’t just tonight. In Game 2 he shot 6-16 and in Game 1 he shot 4-12 and had seven turnovers. What makes this especially crazy is that Lillard was so great in the first two rounds for the Blazers to improbably get this far. Yes, Klay Thompson is a tremendous defender and he’s been absolutely hounding Lillard. However, Lillard’s performance in the Western Conference Finals is so uncharacteristic that it would not be surprising if we wind up hearing afterward that, actually, he was hurt but battling through it. This wouldn’t necessarily be an excuse for what has happened, but it would be a reasonable explanation.
UPDATE: This may be a partial explanation: