Extra Pass: Lillard, Blazers hoping for 3rd straight win in Charlotte

Published October 31, 2021, 4:00 PMJon Carlos Rodriguez

After a slow start to the season, Damian Lillard is getting his groove, resulting in back-to-back wins for the Blazers heading into their first game against the Hornets.

Think of the most reliable, consistent thing in your daily life. Something, perhaps, like drinking water. That’s Damian Lillard’s 3-point shooting. It’s drinking water for the Portland Trail Blazers. They rely on it consistently. It has been their lifeline.

In their season opener against the Sacramento Kings, their water ran dry. Not even a single drop. Lillard took nine shots from long range, nothing connected. In their second game, Lillard tried seven times, hitting twice. In their third game, Lillard went on a drought again. No 3s in eight tries. The simple math: 2-of-24 from 3. The result: two losses and dehydration.

Five games in now, and the Blazers have a 3-2 win-loss record. In those three wins, Lillard’s 3-point shooting looked like this: 2-of-7, 4-of-11, 5-of-7.

Of course, this is not to say that all Blazers wins depend on just Lillard’s 3s alone, but it gets them going. Just like water. This is all to say that the Charlotte Hornets are in danger.

Going into their matchup on Monday (7:00 AM on NBA TV Philippines via Smart GigaPlay or Cignal TV), the Blazers are splashing. They have won their last two games, beating the Memphis Grizzlies by 20 and the Los Angeles Clippers by 19. Jusuf Nurkic is working hard, CJ McCollum is still cooking, and Dame is finally flowing.

On the surface, it seems like Portland’s challenge is in getting production from their thin bench. Aside from Anfernee Simons, no one has yet to step up and help. The Hornets are also trying to get over that same hurdle, but at least they got a much deeper rotation to go through in Cody Martin, PJ Washington, Ish Smith, and Jalen McDaniels.

The Hornets have been so fun to watch to start the season and it’s not just because of LaMelo Ball’s extraterrestrial passes. There’s also the emergence of Miles Bridges, who suddenly decided he’s an All-Star. There’s the irrational confidence of Kelly Oubre. There’s the understated, hush-hush superstar quality of Gordon Hayward.

Unfortunately for them, they’re drawing the Blazers just as Dame Time is recalibrating and getting in sync. Will the Blazers continue to pour on the points or will they—again depending on Lillard’s shooting—die of thirst?

The bigger question: will we see two exciting teams try to outshoot each other in a manner that can be considered both reckless and thrilling? The answer should be a resounding yes.


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