Damian Lillard’s 37-foot buzzer beater was many things.
It was Lillard’s 50th point of the game. It was his 10th 3-pointer of the night, a franchise record. It was the cold-blooded conclusion to the Oklahoma City Thunder’s season.
But one thing it was not? Untrained. From ESPN Staff Writer Royce Young:
Last week when Lillard was in Oklahoma City going through a workout, his trainer Phil Beckner suggested Lillard shoot a few deep ones from near midcourt.
“He was like, ‘You’re gonna hit one of these,'” Lillard said. “He just kept saying, ‘You gonna hit one of these’ and when I was standing there I was like, ‘I’m gonna shoot it.’ [George] was a little bit off of me and I was [thinking] this was enough space for me just to raise up and shoot it for game.”
The last thing that went through Lillard’s mind before he pulled up for the decisive dagger was “this is a comfortable range.” Thousands upon thousands of repetitions have allowed Lillard to extend his range to ridiculous distances without his form breaking down. His seemingly improbable shot was just an instance of preparation meeting opportunity.
Beckner was on Weber State’s coaching staff when Lillard starred for the school, and the two have always clicked. Dame finally convinced him to become his full-time trainer last spring. Extending Lillard’s range far beyond the 3-point line has always been a critical component of their training. Here’s a shot of them practicing 29-foot jumpers from last summer:
Lillard launched 47 shots from between 30-40 feet during the 2018-2019 regular season, sinking 16. When you consider the distance we’re talking about (the NBA 3-point line is 23.75 feet deep at its farthest point), that’s pretty darn impressive. During the playoff series against OKC, Lillard took five shots from between 30-40 feet, and amazingly sunk every one.
“Those situations are handled way before the time comes. In the summer, I think, when you truly prepare yourself and you put yourself through those types of things with training and conditioning and things like that,” Lillard told reporters after his dramatic game-winner. “When you cheat yourself, you fail in those moments. You crash. When you really put the time in, and whether people see it or whether people know it or not, it comes to light.”