The Portland Trail Blazers moved to 31-11 this season with a late comeback victory over the Sacramento Kings.
Without leading scorer LaMarcus Aldridge, the Blazers leaned on point guard Damian Lillard, who despite a poor shooting night, put in 22 points including six in the final 90 seconds.
This kind of late-game takeover has become routine. Lillard has been dominating the NBA this season after being cut from Team USA last summer, and he leads the NBA in fourth-quarter points.
When asked about how he takes over down the stretch of games, Lillard told Grantland’s Kirk Goldsberry about his mentality:
“The people I work out with in the summer would always push me harder at the end of the workouts. They say, finish strong, kill it. The term they would use is ‘yellow tape.’ You know, when it’s a homicide, they bring the yellow tape out? I embraced that. At the end of games I enjoy that part. I have a yellow-tape mentality. Finish hard. Kill ’em off.”
This mentality has been on full display in 2015. In a close, comeback victory over the Lakers, Lillard flew down the lane for one of the best dunks of the year:
Monday night against the Kings, Lillard split two defenders, and once again soared to the rim for another dunk, this time in a one-point game with 30 seconds remaining:
Lillard’s already proven to be a clutch shooter, but these highlight-reel displays of athleticism at the end of games is astonishing.
Some of the credit likely goes to Lillard’s intense summer of training after being cut from Team USA. He told SI’s Chris Mannix:
“I spent time at Utah training at altitude before camp. I changed my diet last summer. It really prepared me for camp. I was in Utah, training, just testing my wind. Training should be tougher than playing, and it was. I came back and I was in great shape.”
Lillard is only 24 years old and already one of the game’s best closers.
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