In high school, there are two words that anyone who actually gives a shit about their GPA fears more than death itself: group project.
I have vivid memories of sacrificing my evenings to bust my ass and complete a group presentation, only to discover that the idiots I was cursed with barely lifted a finger to finish their part. So you know that means? In order to bang out an “A” in the class, I had to eat shit and do their work, too.
This is Dame Lillard’s career in a nutshell—and last night’s game against the Denver Nuggets was no different.
For the past nine seasons, the Oakland native has laid waste to opponent after opponent after opponent, only to look around after the dust has cleared and find himself surrounded with just enough talent to get to the big show, but not enough talent to get the job done.
We’ve witnessed LeBron James reel in Hall of Fame talent like Dwyane Wade, Kyrie Irving, and Anthony Day-to-Davis in order to help propel him to the promised land. We heard the rumors about Kawhi Leonard refusing to sign with the Temecula Clippers unless Paul George was part of the deal. We gawked in awe as the Brooklyn Nets traversed the galaxy and assembled the Infinity Stones. Meanwhile, Logo Lillard has pretty much done his dirt all by his lonely. (The last All-Star Lillard played with was LaMarcus Aldridge in 2015.)
Sure, CJ McCollum is a valuable co-pilot who gives maximum effort on both sides of the floor, but on the defensive end, his shortcomings—as well as the rest of the team’s—have always been the Trail Blazers’ undoing. No matter what Dame does—no matter how many pull-up J’s he knocks down from the logo or ankles he breaks with a nasty crossover—it’s never enough because he can never overcompensate for a roster that’s proven itself incapable of properly supplement his talents time and time again.
This brings us to last night’s game against the Nuggets, because the mythical tales of Paul George and his postseason alter ego, Playoff P, are cute, but Logo Lillard is the real fucking deal.
In 52 minutes of play—double-overtime will do that to a person—the six-time All-Star went absolute ape shit with a historic performance that included the first 50-point, 10-assist postseason game in NBA history. He also threw in 12 three-pointers for good measure—another first in the history of the league.
Did I mention that he did this degree of damage by taking only 24 shots and 10 free throws? This dude was so hot that when he finally missed, Austin Rivers had the perfect response:
And in bearing witness to greatness, plenty of NBA players took to Twitter to bow down and kiss the pinky ring, too.
But this story has an all too familiar ending. Because despite Lillard’s best efforts to dig deep and carry the cross, his Trail Blazers fell short 147-140 to a Nuggets team missing its starting point guard—and once again, are now on the brink of playoff elimination. It’s the latest example of the Portland Trail Blazers being the Portland Trail Blazers, but at least McCullom was kind enough to call a thing a thing after his own putrid 7-for-22 shooting performance that did his teammate exactly zero favors.
“The degree of difficulty on which he hit some of those shots is god-like,” McCullom told reporters after the game. “To be able to create space and shoot from so far out contested time after time. It’s a shame we wasted one of the all-time performances by not being more supportive for him.”
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I rest my case.
Dame is a generational talent who just put on one of the greatest performances in the history of ever, but until he leaves Portland, he’ll always be the groomsman and never the groom.