Portland Trail Blazers superstar guard Damian Lillard defeated the Memphis Grizzlies, earning a trip to the Western Conference postseason.
Lillard, who was voted unanimously as the MVP of the historic seeding games that occurred at Disney World, has proven to have the heart of a champion. The 30-year-old continued to step up in his iconic Dame Time, which he has embraced due to past performances in crunch time by pointing towards where his watch would be on his wrist.
This is where Lillard has shined, according to legend. But we can confirm this by checking what the league’s stat glossary defines as clutch time. These are the minutes when the team is within a five-point differential of their opponent, leading or trailing, during the last five minutes of the game.
According to our research, Lillard has ranked among the Top 20 for total clutch scoring during each season he has played. Since his second year in the NBA, in fact, he has been among the Top 10 all but once.
But it is more than just a surplus of opportunities or perhaps a product of a larger sample size. Lillard has also historically performed better when the game has been on the line.
During his sophomore professional season, for example, he was 19-for-43 (44.2 percent) from three-point range while playing in the clutch. This was far more accurate than his career average (37.2 percent) from beyond the arc. He trailed only Kevin Durant for the most clutch 3-pointers in 2013-14.
Flash forward to this season and even before the additional play-in game against the Grizzlies when he stepped up in clutch time again, the Portland star has stepped up when it has mattered most.
His assists (29) during these minutes were tied with Luka Doncic for the second-best, leading all players except for LeBron James. Lillard has scored 122 points in clutch time this year, per NBA.com, which ranks sixth-best.
(Note that the play-in game does not count statistically towards his regular-season statistics.)
Just from the epic shots, the clutch performances, the confidence without arrogance, the ice cold candid interviews, the loyalty to the Blazers … forget what even happens the rest of his career — Damian Lillard is going to go down as absolute NBA icon.
— Royce Young (@royceyoung) August 14, 2020
Likewise, he had also taken more clutch shots, defined by InPredictable as the shots that have an elevated impact on win probability, than all but three players in the league so far in 2019-20. His effective goal percentage (53.6 percent) on these looks is higher than the league average (45.9 percent) in 2019-20.
Lillard earned his stripes as the most valuable player in the seeding games during clutch minutes. While he is undeniably a player that shines throughout the full 48 minutes of a game, his games in the bubble showed that he is able to step up when it matters the most.
He scored the most points (36) and assists (10) during clutch time among all players in the bubble. Lillard led everyone in clutch shots taken (40) during games since the restart as well. Meanwhile, his plus-minus (23) during clutch minutes in bubble competition ranked sixth-best.
As he prepares for the first round of the playoffs, his hot streak will be one to watch during the series against the No. 1 seeded Los Angeles Lakers.