It was a rough first nine games of the 2021-22 season for the Trail Blazers superstar Damian Lillard.
However, the six-time All-Star is showing signs of a turnaround and seems to have regained his touch and form. As is expected of him, he is beginning to make those long ‘logo-range’ 3-pointers on a more consistent basis once again and have a hand in the team’s game-changing runs.
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On Tuesday night in a 119-100 victory the Denver Nuggets, the team’s ninth home win and fourth consecutive overall, he finished with 25 points on an efficient 9-of-13 from the field and 5-of-8 from 3-point distance.
Yes, it came against a shorthanded Nuggets squad playing without reigning MVP Nikola Jokic but Lillard stepped up as would be expected and was the spark behind the team’s run in the second quarter that really helped them take control of this game.
With all of the 11 lead changes coming in the first half, Portland ran away with the game in the final three minutes of the first half by going on an 18-3 run and Lillard was responsible for 13 of those points.
This is Lillard’s eighth consecutive game scoring at least 22 points while knocking down an average of 3.9 3-pointers per game.
Over this stretch, he’s averaging 26.3 points on shooting splits of 47.4 percent from the field and 40.8 percent from long distance, including erupting for his season-high 39 points recently.
Those numbers are a huge leap from his rough start to the 2021-22 campaign.
Abysmal first nine games
For a player averaging 24.7 points on 43.9 shooting from the field and 37.5 beyond the arc (three 3-pointers per game), Lillard was struggling mightily early on.
From the new Wilson ball to the new officiating rules embraced by the referees or the lingering effects of the abdomen injury he has been playing through.
During the first nine games, he averaged just 17.8 points per game with his shot being way off the mark. In part of these nine, he had three games where his shotmaking from 3-point range was jaw-dropping: 0-of-9 (Oct. 20 vs. Kings), 0-of-8 (Oct. 25 vs. Clippers) and 0-of-6 (Nov. 5 vs. Pacers).
Overall, he averaged 17.8 points on shooting splits of 33.7 percent from the field and 21.7 percent from beyond the arc.
Given the standard of play usually expected of him, Blazers fans will be glad that these early games are now behind him.