Going into the fourth quarter, the Portland Trail Blazers were trailing the Pelicans 95-82. With just over six minutes left on the clock, they were down 117-100. But thanks to another incredible display by Damian Lillard, the Blazers were able to turn it around.
Dame had 20 points in the final 12 minutes. He made a pair of free throws with 1.2 seconds left on the game clock to put Portland up 125-124. Lonzo Ball then threw a full-court pass to Zion Williamson, but the second-year superstar missed a go-ahead turnaround hook, allowing the Blazers to celebrate a comeback win for the ages.
Dame finished the game with 50 points and 10 assists, shooting 13-for-20 from the floor, 6-for-13 from three, and 18-for-18 from the charity stripe. But perhaps the most memorable moment came when Lillard joined the TNT crew for a postgame interview, creating one of the most inspirational 5-minute segments in recent NBA history, which started by Shaquille O'Neal asking him about the pathway to becoming a lethal shooter.
By putting a lot of time into it. We got some great shooters in our league; obviously, we think of Steph Curry first when we think of the greatest shooter to ever play in our league, but he'll tell you the same thing -- it's a lot of reps.
Whether people are watching and whether you get credit for it or not, the best way to improve as a shooter is by putting in the work, even when you don't feel like doing it.
You do it at a game pace; you do it with focus. You do it while you're holding yourself to a certain standard -- make 10 in a row at each spot at the end of your workout when you're tired, and you probably don't want to do it -- things like that.
The reps alone will make you better, but more so than physically, you get better mentally. According to Dame, that's a key factor for becoming a great shooter.
Confidence is the biggest thing for shooters, right next to just getting the reps in and knowing in your heart that you didn't cheat it, you've put the time in, and you deserve to make those shots, and you expect that result.
Once you have that down, it's all about not being afraid to showcase the product of your efforts. Especially in crunch time, which was the next thing Lillard was asked about. That's when the Blazers superstar shines the brightest, and the key is not being afraid of the moment.
Once that moment comes, most people get tighter in that situation. They don't want to make a mistake; they don't want to miss a shot. So in those moments, I just get more aggressive. I seek things out, and I try to go after it.
Instead of taking a step back, Lillard takes a step forward, trying to impose himself as opposed to playing it safe and worrying about what can go wrong. And that's the best thing you can do in the clutch, especially if you've put in the work and learned to be comfortable when being uncomfortable.
Once that moment comes, I'm like, 'If it goes wrong, I'm willing to take that blame. And if it goes well, let's go back to work and do it again.'
For Dame, most of the time, it goes well, and yesterday's win over the Pelicans was no different. The reps are there, and confidence is there. But more importantly, the motivation is there. Nine years into his NBA career, Lillard is still hungry to prove himself. And for all the right reasons.
Being a millionaire is great; having numerous endorsement deals is awesome, and so is being a globally recognized athlete. But none of those things would be possible without the work. That's why Lillard constantly brings his A-Game. Everything else is a by-product of that.
I had to do my work behind the scenes; I had to earn my way. I know what it's like to be unknown and to not have the lights on you. I don't forget those steps that it took for me to get here. I don't forget the thing that makes all of those things possible, which is the work, the discipline, the humility, the compassion.
Dropping 50 and leading a team to a comeback victory is amazing. But what Lillard did during his postgame interview is even greater. The guy is a true inspiration. Everything else is an understatement.