By Stefan Djordjevic/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Damian Lillard took over the spotlight last night against the Philadelphia 76ers, firing from all cylinders for a total of 51 points, becoming the eighth player in NBA history to log at least five 50-point performances in a single season.
His stellar performance came right after a heartbreaking loss against the LA Clippers the night before when Lillard, despite making many clutch shots, missed two key free throws in a row down the stretch.
After the match, the Clippers‘ Patrick Beverley – who was going back and forth with Lillard during the game – and Paul George got into a ‘trash-talking duel’ with Lillard on social media. And his answer came not only with words but with actions too.
“After the game, I was irritated with myself. I was frustrated. But it is what it is. I talked with one of my best friends, and he was like, ‘This happened for a reason. You’ve had a lot of big moments, and you usually come out on top. You’ve got to expect there to be some type of balance. You’ve got to expect that sometimes you’re going to have to respond to some type of adversity. I had a chance to get back on the court today, so I moved from it,” Lillard said.
His teammate, the Bosnian big man Jusuf Nurkic, was also asked about Dame’s huge performance and he had his guard’s back.
“He’s just taking bad shots, right? Simple as that. Luckily for us, he makes most of them,” Nurk said after noting that he would take Damian Lillard shooting free throws for his team any time.
The short answer by Nurkic forced a quick smile by everybody present at the post-game press conference and there’s a reason for that. It was a reminder and a clap back to Paul George’s comments last season after Lillard banked a tough, contested, deep three-point shot over him to eliminate the Oklahoma City Thunder from the playoffs.
“Yeah, that’s a bad shot. I don’t care what anybody says. That’s a bad shot. But, hey, he made it. That story will be told that it was a bad shot and you live with that,” George said back then.
Nice ‘jab’ by Nurkic, indeed. Lillard also praised Nurkic in return, last night, saying that he is the big reason the Blazers are in the position to fight for the playoffs and that it’s impressive what the Bosnian center has been doing after being out for a long time due to a scary injury.
One must notice that Nurkic has been looking really ‘fresh’ in the bubble but the big man himself admitted that he’s not completely back yet. All the more when back-to-backs are in question, which was the case last night. However, Nurk knew every game is do-or-die for Portland at the moment and decided to push through fatigue, especially since his squad was missing Hassan Whiteside.
“I was not prepared for the back-to-back. After that loss, I couldn’t afford not to play. So I tried to fight through, and I’m glad we won this one. We know our season is on the line right now, and we can afford no more losses.”