PORTLAND, Or. – Leaving the locker room on Sunday, Damian Lillard straightened his red vest and steered the narrow passage in the belly of the Moda Center on his way to the podium for his after-game media conference. 19659002] The corridor, which is no more than 10 feet wide, is packed with people playing after the game – friends, families, teammates, team workers, agents, reporters – and this is compounded by the fact that the locker room in Denver Nuggets in the immediate vicinity is the podium room. There is a crowd around Lillard, and even when the game is over, a nugget is never too far away.
It's a perennial theme of the series: Damian Lillard just seems to get no space.
"I think it's obvious: They're trying to show body and make me play in a crowd," Lillard said. "Find the open man I'm trying to do, I try to see where the help comes from, see where the other guy is from, and play this game, and still find a way to be aggressive and after that Do not let them make me a passive player, I can definitely try to be more aggressive and have more bodies around me. "
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Like everyone else who has an internet connection or a television, the Nuggets saw Lillard abusing the Oklahoma City Thunder in their opening round. They saw the logo shots. They saw the dramatic shifts of impulse with every reckless returner. They saw how a single Lillard 3-pointer could feel like a 10-0 run that excited the spectators and deflated the deflator.
In the series against the thunder Lillard opened it with a rocket from about 30 meters high and finished it with a 37 meters away. Against the thunder, he went 5 out of 5 to 3 seconds from 30 or more yards from the tire. He is 2 out of 5 out of 30 against the Nuggets.
"I think they're getting him pretty high, they have to be open," said Blazers coach Terry Stotts. "For the ladies, an open 3 is a good 3. They pick him up in the middle of the field and they do not give him much space, so I do not think these 3's are there."
Nuggets assistant Wes Unseld Jr. has been at the center of Denver's defensive reversal this season. His focus on the series against the Blazers was not too complicated. He saw the things that caused the thunder problems: their pickup points were too low, their bigs were not enough, and they were not enough on the ball, which caused Lillard to refuse screens.
"He had a lot of open space in this series, and that's not an impulse for OKC, we just wanted to be a little bit better," said Nuggets coach Mike Malone. "We did not want him to get 33 a night."
Lillard scored a loss of 116-112 in Game 4 with 28 points, which would equalize the series 2-2, but he shot only 9 of 22 out of the field and 2-of-7 of 3. The frustration was obviously for him. He tries not to push, but the Nuggets try to squeeze the ball out of his hands. He trusts the pass, but the Nuggets want him to fit. He is a scorer; that makes him an elite. But he also strives to make the right game and to rely on his teammates. This was what worked in Games 2 and 3, with CJ McCollum, Rodney Hood, Enes Kanter and Maurice Harkless playing big games. Lillard tries to find his points and waits for the defense to subside.
Lillard's first quarter was brilliant in Game 4, with Picture Perfect Pocket passes and accurate rendezvous with the shooters in the corners as he grabbed Denver's attention. However, Lillard lives for the crucial moments – the dagger shots and the game changing games. The Nuggets are committed to forcing someone to make them. There was not much opportunity for rhythm for Lillard. He started 4 out of 14 from the ground and showed signs of frustration as he fought against the forcing of the topic.
"I think if you see that a defense is so aggressively coming at you, you need to find out what you think you are trying to do and what you think they are trying to do," said Lillard. "Try to make her pay for it, try attacking her with the passport, maybe from the weak side or from wherever the help comes in, attack her and try to take advantage of it. and maybe they get away from it or it gets softer because they are paranoid because they are paranoid on the other side and then become more aggressive to get the ball.
"If that does not work, then you need to find out , Maybe attack, go more downhill and try to make contact. Try to pay for it with your passport and see if it works if you give up the ball. If not, you have to stay aggressive. "
This attitude seemed to pay off in the fourth quarter when Lillard scored 15 points in 5-of-8 shooting, and the possibilities began to show, and he took advantage of them, missing three free throws – very un-lady time- like – including a critical throw of 20.3 seconds, which would have reduced the lead of Denver to a hit.
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Except the game 1 in which he scored 39 points Lillard did not have such a dominant, unstoppable look he had against OKC: Denver (19459026) Jamal Murray was asked what the Nuggets were doing to prevent this, and all the while Murray replied that Nikola Jokic scanned the statute I frowned as if something was not adequate.
"Brother, he scored 30 points," Jokic said, shaking the questioner's head.
There were actually 28, and it certainly was not the average that Malone referred to OKC. It also goes deeper than this series: The Nuggets hold Lillard at 24.3 points, 40.3 percent out of the field and 27.1 percent of 3 in eight games combined – regular and postseason combined. Compared to the rest of the NBA, Lillard scored an average of 26.5 points at 44.9 percent from the field and 38.2 percent at 3.
"We have not done anything yet," Malone said with a warning tone. "It's a bound series, and we've regained the home advantage, but Dame is able to beat 40 and 50 in a heartbeat, so we do not think we've understood him."