There’s an old adage is sports that it is usually a good thing to have a short memory. In order to play with the confidence required to make split second decisions in the most crucial moments of a close contest, it’s almost a necessity to clear one’s mind of what happened last season or last week or the last possession. In those moments, to remember is to doubt, and once that doubt creeps in even just a little, the likelihood of success diminishes precipitously.
So when Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard brought the ball up the court in Thursday night’s nationally-televised game versus the Lakers at the Moda Center with 15 seconds to play and the score tied at 110-110, he wasn’t thinking about losing in overtime to the Jazz the night before or entering the final possession of the game having shot just 1-of-5 from three. In Lillard’s case, not only was his memory short, it was also false.
“Was I?” said Lillard when told he had shot 20 percent from three for the game going into the final possession. “I felt like I made a few. In my mind, I made a few.”
Which might have given the 6-3 point guard in his sixth season out of Weber State the confidence he needed to take and make a go-ahead three-pointer without hesitation with 0.7 seconds to play, lifting the Trail Blazers to a 113-110 win, their 13th consecutive victory against the Lakers.
“Tonight, I looked up at about seven seconds, I started giving (Brandon Ingram) movement, just backing him up,” explained Lillard of his game-winning attempt. “I gave him a double between-the-legs and I saw him like back up a little bit. I took another hard dribble and just stepped back away from him and got a clean look.”
If Lillard was unsure of his shot after missing four of five three-point attempts or was thinking back to his game-winning attempt the night before in Utah getting blocked, perhaps he hesitates, maybe even defers. But he wasn’t thinking of the late-game turnovers or last-second misses that he’s already endured in the first seven games of Portland’s season. Instead, all that was in his mind was the gratitude for the opportunity.
“I felt like I had made a few three-pointers before that, but I didn’t,” said Lillard. “But I mean, I felt good. The ball was coming off my hands good all night, even the ones that I didn’t make. And in those moments you don’t think about what happened before, it’s a chance to rise to the occasion. You 0-for-0 in that moment. I go back to my very first game-winner against New Orleans my rookie year, I had a terrible shooting game but I was able to block that out. All that mattered was that moment. No different tonight.”