Down 2-Zero within the NBA Western Convention finals, the Portland Path Blazers discover themselves in a must-win predicament on their residence flooring Saturday evening (9 p.m. ET, ESPN).
One huge purpose the Golden State Warriors are within the driver’s seat: their means to close down Damian Lillard, who should get going if Portland has an opportunity to show this sequence round.
This is how Golden State has contained Dame, and a few issues the Blazers can do to attempt to counter.
Lillard not getting his pictures
Lillard is a terrific scorer who averaged practically 26 factors per recreation this season by mixing Three-point scoring, midrange taking pictures and rim assaults.
However within the first two video games of this sequence, the Warriors have diminished Lillard to a medium-usage, low-efficiency perimeter scorer. They’ve prevented him from doing any harm contained in the Three-point line.
Lillard’s shot distribution within the first two video games ought to fear the Blazers. He has just one made shot within the paint and three whole buckets within the 2-point space. He is taken 9 pictures from past 30 toes, and has taken a complete of 4 inside 10 toes.
Throughout the common season, Lillard’s common shot high quality on Three-point makes an attempt — factoring in shot kind, location and defender distance — rated as a not-great 47.5 anticipated efficient subject purpose share (eFG), in keeping with Second Spectrum monitoring. As a result of Lillard is cash from lengthy vary, even when contested, he cashed in with an precise eFG of 55.6.
However the Warriors is perhaps forcing Dame to a breaking level. His shot high quality is right down to a 42.5 anticipated eFG on 17 3s on this sequence, per Second Spectrum. The common shot distance on his 3s is 29.1 toes away from the rim. Someway he is nonetheless taking pictures 41.2 % total on these appears, however that is not sustainable and it is affecting the remainder of his recreation.
Lillard’s lack of ability to supply something close to the basket is especially disappointing. Take into account these two stats:
Within the common season, Lillard averaged over 11 factors per recreation on 2-pointers. Within the first two video games of this sequence, he is scored simply six whole factors on 2s.
Lillard averaged 6.5 pictures per recreation inside eight toes of the basket within the common season. On this sequence, he is tried simply three whole in that zone.
So how are the Warriors pulling this off?
The Warriors’ plan to take out Dame
Give credit score right here to Golden State’s protection, which stays essentially the most unheralded a part of this dynastic run. The Warriors have at all times mixed sensible techniques with improbable particular person defenders to generate nice defensive outcomes. This sequence is not any exception. The Dubs have constructed a recreation plan designed to suppress Lillard’s scoring exercise and dare different Blazers to beat them.
Klay Thompson has performed the lion’s share of defensive work on Lillard, and Thompson has been excellent. Within the common season, Lillard shot 27.9 instances and scored 34.5 factors per 100 possessions. However within the 66 matchups in opposition to Thompson this sequence, Lillard is taking pictures at a price of 18.2 instances per 100 and yielding simply 12.1 factors. In Sport 1, Dame had the fewest shot makes an attempt of his 49-game playoff profession (12). His 16 makes an attempt in Sport 2 had been nonetheless properly under his profession common of 19.9.
The Warriors are leaving Lillard with few good choices, squashing the Blazers star on the level of assault. After blitzing pick-and-rolls simply 4 instances per recreation within the first two spherical of those playoffs, they’re doing so 18 instances per recreation on this sequence, per Second Spectrum. Hardly ever does Lillard name for a decide with out two Golden State defenders completely swarming him.
In Sport 2, Golden State blitzed Lillard 19 instances. That is not simply essentially the most blitzes Lillard has confronted in a postseason recreation in his whole profession — it is essentially the most any participant has confronted this postseason.
Generally Lillard has been capable of cut up that blitz and get to the rim, however strikes like this turn out to be difficult to execute on each possession if you’ve performed 326 whole minutes this month and 9 playoff video games in 18 days:
The Warriors’ protection is legendary for with the ability to swap something, however Golden State may also regulate to the matchup.
What else can Lillard strive?
Lillard is generally making the correct play on these blitzes. He is discovering the large — sometimes Enes Kanter — on brief rolls, however Kanter is not any Magic Johnson. He is form of a useless finish on these performs.
With that in thoughts, Portland ought to strive one thing else. Some potential options:
Set screens with playmakers. Within the second half of Sport 2, Portland began utilizing Evan Turner as a screener, making him the receiver of the passes out of the blitzes. Turner is rather more adept at making performs than, say, Meyers Leonard, Zach Collins or Kanter. Portland used the Lillard-Turner pick-and-roll eight instances within the second half of Sport 2, whereas utilizing it simply 5 instances whole in all earlier playoff video games. Anticipate extra of that in Sport Three.
Do away with the ball sooner. The easiest way to punish groups for blitzing is to maneuver the ball as quickly because the defenders attempt to converge. Each Lillard and CJ McCollum have to provoke the punishment as quick as potential when Golden State blitzes.
Dethroning the champs is not any simple process, and this Warriors workforce is hard to beat on each ends of the court docket.
Although the Warriors will rightly go down in historical past as an offensive juggernaut, extra of us ought to have a good time this protection. Thompson nonetheless has but to make an all-defense workforce, which is nothing in need of a travesty. He’s a world-class wing defender who has persistently proven up for giant video games. If the Blazers are going to win Sport Three, they’re going to want to search out somebody to select on apart from Klay.