Damian Lillard wowed Portland fans last night with a game winning shot over Paul George from almost 40 feet from the basket. Watching the game live, it was hard to tell what Lillard was trying to do as he brought the ball up in the final seconds of the game. He slowly crosses half court and lets the clock run down under five seconds as he’s barely passing the logo. The clock goes down to about two seconds and fans are wondering if he’s just going to let the game go into overtime. But then Lillard does a step back and fades away as he shoots an impossible shot over the outstretched George.
The ball soars towards the hoop; fans hold their breath wondering if the game might continue, still tied at 115. But of course Lillard’s shot goes in and the stadium erupts as Portland has just knocked off Oklahoma City and advanced to the next round of the playoffs.
Reactions to Lillard’s Shot
In Portland, they love Lillard and don’t have a problem with him shooting an almost 40-foot shot at the buzzer of the most important game of the year. That’s just what Lillard does. But around the country, analysts have been questioning whether taking the shot was a smart move.
Paul George, Lillard’s defender, said after the game that he thought it was a bad shot that happened to go in. But of course George had some skin in the game and had just given up the season-ending basket.
But some impartial parties agree that Lillard shouldn’t have taken the shot. After all, shooting from that far decreases your chances of scoring or getting fouled. And Lillard didn’t make any attempt to pass the ball to a teammate or get some kind of play going. He simply walked the ball up the floor and shot the ball at the buzzer.
The Stats Hold the Answers
If you don’t know Lillard then the shot seems ridiculous. And for most players to shoot from that distance is ridiculous. But Lillard isn’t most players. He’s shot just over 50 shots from between 30 and 40 feet from the basket this season. And he’s made almost 40% of those shots. That’s a better percentage than Paul George shoots from just behind the three-point line. So for Lillard, a 35 or 37-foot shot is not out of the question. He’s actually quite good at making them.
Knowing that Lillard can consistently make shots from that distance, the only argument against him taking a shot like that at such an important time, is that he didn’t attempt to advance the ball even slightly closer to increase his chances. But then again, Lillard shot the ball how he was most comfortable and he made the basket.
Basketball Spreading Out
Lillard is among a group of players that is slowly growing, who can shoot shots from almost anywhere inside of half court. Players like Steph Curry and Trae Young also have incredible range. The emergence of this type of basketball has some analysts suggesting the invention of a four-point line. This could be an added line on the court, somewhere between the logo and the three-point line that could extend the game even farther back and give teams a chance to score more points with long-range shooters.
But basketball is spreading out already. Adding a four-point line might unnecessarily stretch the game too thin and tip the balance too heavily toward shooting threes. It could result in a game that is only long distance shooting and dunks after rebounds. Some might argue that that is already what the modern NBA has become. But adding a four-point line could get rid of the midrange game entirely. And that is where some of the most interesting basketball plays happen.
Whether we add a four-point line or not, players like Lillard are bound to keep shooting from distance and wowing fans with their skill from beyond the arc.