Blazers assistant gives insight into Lillard's heroics

Blazers assistant gives insight into Lillard's heroics
FILE - PORTLAND, OR - OCTOBER 24: Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers is introduced before the game against the New Orleans Pelicans on October 24, 2017 at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon.(Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images) staff report

No one in the NBA has scored more points in the fourth quarter since the All-Star break than Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard. He added 19 more in the fourth quarter last night in a comeback win against the Los Angeles Lakers that lifted the Blazers to their seventh straight win and tightened their grip on the Western Conference's No. 3 seed.

Lest we all forget, Lillard has been doing this clutch scoring thing for a while now. He led the league in fourth-quarter scoring in 2014-15, and in the next two seasons, finished fourth and fifth in that category, respectively. This season, Lillard is tied with teammate C.J. McCollum for sixth in total fourth-quarter points scored.

How does Lillard keep on delivering these masterful late-game performances? Lillard has been in a zone since the All-Star break (he had another 19-point fourth quarter in a Feb. 24 comeback win in Phoenix) and assistant coach David Vanterpool has been enjoying the show the whole time. As Jason Quick of points out, Vanterpool knows better than anyone else what Lillard is capable of:

To those in Portland, we know it is not just Lillard’s physical talents that allow him to amass such an impressive collection of late-game heroics.


After Monday’s heroics, Blazers assistant David Vanterpool gave some insight into Lillard’s mindset. Vanterpool has mentored Lillard from Day One in Portland. Nobody on the Blazers’ staff has spent more time with Lillard studying film, or going through workouts, or getting inside the mind of the now 27-year-old.

I asked him what stood out about this performance, or what we don’t see while we are watching it unfold.

Vanterpool thought for a second, then his eyes sparkled. He smiled.

“He knows that’s going to happen,’’ he said. “What he just did, that’s not by mistake. Mentally, he’s already seen it. He’s prepared, he’s put in the work, and that’s why it’s not a surprise to him.

“He already feels it, he already knows it,’’ Vanterpool said. “What he did tonight is more like him finishing a movie he has already seen in his mind.’’


“Regardless of how the game is going,’’ Lillard said Monday. “I’m always going to feel like when the time comes, I can make it happen.’’

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