Michael Malone explains head-scratching defensive strategy vs. Damian Lillard

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Malone explains head-scratching defensive strategy vs. Lillard originally appeared on NBC Sports Northwest

Damian Lillard’s Game 5 performance against the Denver Nuggets is one of the greatest outings in NBA playoff history.

He finished with 55 points and 10 assists on 70% shooting and hit a playoff-record 12 three-pointers.

“Damian Lillard was superhuman,” said Nuggets head coach Michael Malone.

It didn’t matter who was guarding him, Lillard was trying to will his team to a 3-2 lead heading back to Portland.

But one man can only do so much. 

Crucial missed dunks by Robert Covington and CJ McCollum stepping out of bounds in the closing moments of the second overtime led to Portland losing the game, but the talk was still on Lillard.

“Dame was going insane,” Michael Porter Jr. said. “That was unbelievable what he was doing out there.”

Lillard was in such a zone, the Blazers were down by eight points in the first overtime, but a litany of deep three-pointers from him was enough to force a second extra period.

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His shot, a spin-around three over Monte Morris, to force overtime was great from a Blazers perspective, but many questioned the Nuggets’ decision not to foul before he got the shot off.

“If a guy catches (the ball) inside the 3-point line - a guys catches it with his back to the basket, those are times when you can look to take a foul,” Malone said. “Damian Lillard is like Chris Paul, he’s been around the block. He knows what time it is. If you try to take that foul, my concern is him making the three and giving up a four-point play.

“So it’s really out of respect to Damian Lillard. His experience as a clutch player. There’s a lot things you can sit here and second-guess. We won the game, that’s all that matters.”

The respect for Lillard has grown even more after his historic performance. He’s currently averaging 35.6 points during the series and shooting 47.4% from the field, 47.8% from three, and 92.7% from the line.

“We expect that from Dame,” Morris said. “He’s a hell of a player. Gotta give him a ton of respect, he made some crazy shots. Well, really not crazy for him, he’s been hitting them his whole career.