The clash between two of the best leaders in the league has taken place. Between a Luka Doncic who struggled throughout the game, and until the last second, to keep his own in a lagging match, and a Damian Lillard who was able to be decisive at the end after leading his team of masterful hand, finishing or passing.
The Blazers star also thought he had done what was necessary, with a successful start, marked by a fully cooked dunk to launch his own (19-10) and caviars to put his teammates in confidence, in particular his shooters, who contributed to give Terry Stotts’ men up to 14 points in the last act.
But Luka Doncic did everything possible to get the Mavs back in the game with a 12-0 money-time. All eyes were then on the two leaders. In the last two minutes of the match, it was Damian Lillard who made the best choices, going to cause the fault of Tim Hardaway Jr. to get two throws and especially by slamming this “step-back” to 3-points in “Dame Time” mode ahead of the hour in front of Dorian Finney-Smith, 30 seconds from the end.
“I know that we’re going to have honest shooting positions and that he knows how to make the right decisions”, slipped the Portland coach about his relationship of trust with his leader. “He can put extraordinary shots, he’s been doing it for a long time. Quite often the most important thing is just to give him the ball ”.
More than a scoring machine
Luka Doncic was unable to answer him despite an open position behind the arc in the closing seconds, so Portland fulfilled his mission by winning 121-118. But more than this “match in the match” or this decisive shot, Damian Lillard (34 points, 11 assists) said he was satisfied to have been able to involve his whole team.
This is perhaps where the difference was made at the end, facing a Luka Doncic worn out from having to do everything (44 points, 7 rebounds, 9 assists), as Rick Carlisle suggested after the meeting, and who saw his last shot go to bowl, where Damian Lillard was able to share more the ball, especially with his shooters like Gary Trent Jr. and Anfernee Simons and of course Carmelo Anthony.
“In the past, I would probably have taken more on myself to maybe score more or dominate the game a little more”, he confided. “But this year, I feel like my approach has been more to show guys that I believe in them. And give them a chance to do what they’re doing. There is a lot of talent in the league. We have a lot of talent in our team. But guys need experience and a chance to show what they can do. So I think when guys feel this caring and sincere belief on my part, I realized that more could be got from them ”.