NBA Spotlight: Antetokounmpo And Lillard Shine



Miami Heat guard Kendrick Nunn drives to the basket past Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard (0) during the first quarter on Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Fla. (Daniel A. Varela/Miami Herald/TNS)

Ben Conroy

The past weeks in the NBA have been filled to the brim with impressive individual performances. Players have dazzled night in and night out, stuffing the stat sheet and leaving crowds in awe in the process. While many players have contributed to the barrage of top-tier outings, Portland Trailblazers point guard Damian Lillard and Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo have been among the league’s finest, excelling in most measurable statistical categories.

In his past 10 games, Lillard has dismantled nearly every defense’s come across, scoring 30 or more points on eight occasions, including a 50-point outing against the Indiana Pacers and an historic 61-point performance against the Golden State Warriors. Over that 10 game span, Lillard averaged nearly 41 points per game, leading the Trailblazers to six victories in the process. This recent flurry of high-octane offensive performances has elevated Lillard’s season scoring average to 29.7 points per game, good enough for third in the entire NBA. Lillard’s game, however, remained multi-faceted, as he recorded eight or more assists in five contests, along with over six rebound performances. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this incredible stretch, however, was Lillard’s efficiency; his field goal percentage only once dipped below 40, including seven games in which he shot 50% or above. It’s also worth noting that Lillard’s free throw percentage has been off the charts in the past 10 contests, as he found the bottom of the net on nearly 90% of his attempts. His numbers are just as impressive from three-point range, connecting on over 40% of his attempts seven times during this most recent 10 game stretch. His dominance of late has turned heads across the NBA, and many are left wondering why Lillard was refused a spot among this year’s All-Star squad. Lillard and the Blazers currently sit at 23-28, aiming to pick up an important victory against the Spurs on Thursday night at home.

Similarly, Antetokounmpo’s recent numbers have been a statistician’s fantasy, as the reigning MVP has demonstrated why many consider him the most dominant player in the league. In his past ten games, Antetokounmpo has on all occasions but one finished with a double-double, portraying his efficiency as both a rebounder and a scorer. In a particularly remarkable feat, Antetokounmpo recorded 14 or more rebounds in seven out of the last ten contests, helping boost his season average to 13.2 rebounds per game, placing him among the league’s best in that category. An overlooked aspect of Antetokounmpo’s game, however, is his passing; the forward averaged nearly seven assists over the past 10 games (5.9 APG for the season). The effects of Antetokounmpo’s recent outstanding play can be seen in the team’s record; the team suffered only two defeats in the entire month of January and have begun this month with a pair of resounding victories over the New Orleans Pelicans and the Phoenix Suns. The Bucks sit comfortably atop the Eastern conference, boasting a league-best 43-7 record and enjoying a seven-game cushion over the Toronto Raptors. Antetokounmpo looks to continue his dominant campaign Thursday night at home against the Philadelphia 76ers in a crucial in-conference matchup.