Even though at least one measure suggests he’s actually worse, it probably wouldn’t be fair to compare the defense of Portland point guard Damian Lillard to that of notorious matador James Harden. Lillard at least seems to try, compared to whatever it is the Bearded One does on the uglier end of the court. But if Lillard admitted embarrassment at studying film of his defensive failures as a rookie, one can only imagine how he felt after the opening game of Portland’s Western Conference semifinals series with the Spurs, in which Tony Parker ran him ragged through an obstacle course of screens en route to 33 points in a 116-92 rout. Such lapses have been the source of much scrutiny during his brief two-year career. Not enough to outweigh his immense offensive skill, preternatural poise and an undeniable flair for the dramatic. But making him such a big target that his uniform No. 0 might as well be a flashing neon bullseye. The Spurs started picking on him on their very first play and never let up. At one point, after Blazers coach Terry Stotts switched shooting guard Wesley Matthews in a vain attempt to slow Parker down, the Spurs ran a pick and roll with Danny Green as the screener in the hopes of switching Lillard back onto the Frenchman. Such was their unwavering focus on punishing Portland’s budding young star. Lillard took responsibility for Parker’s outburst on Wednesday, but it wasn’t entirely his fault. He was the initial defender on just half of Parker’s 24 shots, of which 15 were rated as contested — a defender within four feet — by NBA.com’s tracking cameras. Parker made six of those 12 shots, compared to 7 of 12 against the rest of the field. There was also the matter of Stotts playing Parker by the book, sinking his bigs into the paint to deny penetration while leaving Lillard on an island to play 1 on 2.
Spurs targeting Lillard’s defensive deficiencies
San Antonio Express-News | May 8