The Portland Trail Blazers continued their hot start to the season with a big overtime victory over the Phoenix Suns on Friday night. Damian Lillard led the way for Portland, pouring in 41 points to help the Trail Blazers defeat the team with the best record in the NBA last season. It was another encouraging win for Portland after they opened their season with a win over the Sacramento Kings.
Lillard helped the Blazers beat the Suns in more than one way
Lillard's scoring very nearly wasn't enough for the Trail Blazers to win, as they had to grind out a tough overtime period to walk away with the win. Suns center Deandre Ayton had a chance to tie the game with a pair of free throws with one second left in overtime, but he missed both of them, allowing the Trail Blazers to escape with the win.
Fans quickly noted how Lillard made sure to get some words of encouragement across to Ayton before he took his shot. Of course, those encouraging words were meant to help Portland, not Phoenix. Lillard revealed after the game what he said to Ayton right before he missed his free throws, and he believes that he played a role in spooking the young center into missing his shots at the charity stripe with the game on the line.
Lillard's trash-talk appears to have fazed Deandre Ayton
It's clear Lillard was trash-talking Ayton before his free throws, but it's interesting to hear him say he believes it played a factor in Ayton missing the shots with the game on the line. Ayton didn't seem too bothered by what Lillard was saying at the time, but it's hard to argue that Lillard's trash talk didn't impact him since he missed the shots.
While we won't know if this is true unless Ayton confirms it (which won't happen), it looks like Lillard played quite a big role in helping the Trail Blazers beat the high-powered Suns in this game. Even with CJ McCollum getting dealt at the trade deadline last season, Lillard has proven early on that he has what it takes to lead Portland to victories on his own. And now that he is getting in his opponents' heads, it looks like the Trail Blazers may need to be taken seriously as the 2022-23 season progresses.