Biggest Moments from Damian Lillard's Rookie Year so Far

Michael DulkaContributor IMarch 28, 2013

Biggest Moments from Damian Lillard's Rookie Year so Far

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    Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard has filled his rookie year with plenty of big moments. His incredible play has him in the driver's seat for the NBA's Rookie of the Year award. 

    While Lillard has been great for the Blazers, he's had struggles, like most rookies. Overall, Lillard has played above his sixth overall draft selection. Many of the teams that passed on the Weber State product will certainly have their regrets.

    Here are some of Lillard's biggest moments listed in chronological order. 

Welcome to Rip City

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    Portland Trail Blazers' fans got their first taste of Damian Lillard in a fine debut performance which helped Rip City beat Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers 116-106. The rookie showed his potential by dropping 23 points and 11 assists in the game. Lillard finished the game 7-of-17 from the floor but made all eight of his free-throw attempts. 

    Lillard was too much of an offensive weapon for Steve Nash and Steve Blake to handle. His quick first step allowed him to create space to score as well as find his teammates. 

    The strong outing turned out to be a solid preview of what Lillard would do on nightly basis. Now the rookie is averaging over 19 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. While he's gotten better throughout the year, there have been ups and downs. 

Game-Winner Against New Orleans

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    While Damian Lillard proved during the first month and change of his NBA career that he belonged, there was no bigger moment than when he hit the game-winning bucket to beat the New Orleans Hornets. While any game-winner is worthy of praise, there are multiple factors that increased the impressiveness. 

    For one, Lillard wasn't playing particularly well before taking the final shot. Until that moment, he had scored 13 points on a less-than-stellar 4-of-13 from the floor, including 3-of-9 from three-point distance. Secondly, Lillard stepped up to take the shot on a team with established and veteran scorers LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum. 

    It was a great moment to realize that the Blazers' new star was clutch as well. Lillard followed up with a clutch three against the New York Knicks just weeks later. 

Heroic Homecoming

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    Born and raised in Oakland, Damian Lillard embraced his return home and lit up the Golden State Warriors. A barrage of scoring helped Lillard finish with a career-high 37 points, despite his Blazers falling to the Warriors in a 103-97 game. 

    The standout rookie also finished the game with six rebounds and four assists. 

    Lillard started slowly. He scored just nine points in the first half as the Blazers trailed 50-35 at the break. He erupted after recess with a silky shooting streak that resulted in 7-of-12 from downtown. In addition to scorching the Warriors from deep, Lillard exploited the Warriors defense and got to the basket with ease.

    The furious comeback attempt failed but showed a sense of maturity in the 22-year-old rookie. Instead of letting an average first half and a big deficit get to him, Lillard showed great composure and fight during the rally. 

Taco Bell Skills Challenge

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    Blazers fans should get to used to watching Damian Lillard during All-Star weekend. While he didn't get selected to the All-Star Game, Lillard dazzled fans during the Rising Stars Challenge and the Taco Bells Skill Challenge. In the latter, Lillard won the event, beating out established guards Jrue Holiday, Brandon Knight, Jeff Teague, Jeremy Lin and Tony Parker.

    Lillard finished the event in 29.8 seconds, which topped Holiday's final-round time of 35.8 seconds.

    The victory showed Lillard isn't just making a name among rookies, but around the league. Also, it showed Lillard's competitive spirit in an event that means little. While Tony Parker went half-speed, Lillard gave it his all. 

Shocking the Spurs

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    While the Blazers have fallen out of the playoff race down the stretch, Damian Lillard has continued to pour in big performances. None was more impressive than his 35-point outburst in a shocking 136-106 thrashing of the San Antonio Spurs. And no, this wasn't one of the games Spurs' head coach Gregg Popovich rested his best players. 

    Lillard and his Blazers were just that good. 

    While Lillard has shown he can score the basketball in multiple ways, the Blazers are most dangerous when Lillard is also getting to the line. Against the Spurs, he was extremely aggressive finishing with multiple layups and eight free-throw attempts. 

    While Lillard killed the Spurs with his scoring ability, he was also incredibly smart with his play. He finished the game with nine assists and no turnovers.

    It's hard to beat a team when their point guard is scoring at will and isn't giving away the ball.