Damian Lillard is a wonderful, thrilling young point guard who will dominate the NBA for years to come. His jump shot is one of the most dangerous in the league, and since getting snubbed from the All-Star Game, Lillard has completely torn up the league. It's as if he's exacting revenge on everyone who made the team above him.
But Damian Lillard is not Stephen Curry.
There are many similarities between the two, of course. Lillard extend defenses way past the three-point line in a way only comparable to Curry. They are electric on the drive and can dribble their way through a crowd like Moses parting the Red Sea. They are both poised to break, no, shatter any three-point records standing from the "olden days" where the long ball was a gimmick or strategy, not a way of life.
But Damian Lillard is not Stephen Curry.
On Friday, Curry and Lillard met again, the first time since Portland beat Golden State coming out of the All-Star break. Well, you don't beat the Warriors twice. Golden State took an early lead, then stayed up in the middle, and then lead by a lot towards the end. There were no ties, no lead changes, no mercy. The final score of 128-112 didn't even show the full brilliance of the Warriors' dominance.
Curry had 34 points on 13-of-23 shooting, knocking down seven triples. Early in the game, he left Lillard gasping for air with an absurd dribble-drive and layup off the glass.
Lillard was off, scoring 17 points on 5-of-19 shooting. Curry exerted his dominance as the alpha male, the apex predator of the NBA proving that his hegemony wasn't going to fall to any challenger, even one with many similarities. It's easy to call Lillard the mini-Steph or "Steph lite" or a junior Splash Bro, and those comparisons are a good reference point. But at some point, you have to stop making those analogies, too.
Stephen Curry is Stephen Curry. Curry is doing things no one has ever done, not this year, not this decade, not in the history of the NBA. You can't compare anyone to him, not just Lillard, and setting up those standards as the ones Lillard needs to reach is a disservice to one of the NBA's best, most exciting players.
Damian Lillard is Damian Lillard. He's leading a team that's ahead of its development curve on a wild playoff push that could end with them as high as the No. 5 seed, in a year where everyone expected them to be sitting dead in the lottery. He's leaving a trail of ruined defenses and viral Vines in his wake. That's enough. Let him be Dame.
2 more things from Friday
Rubio downs Oklahoma City
Ricky Rubio's having his best shooting season, which still isn't all that good: he's shooting slightly more than two per game and making 30 percent of them. But his shot has clearly evolved, enough to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder on their home court.
The Thunder have now won just four of their last 11 games. Their competition has been very stiff -- the Cavaliers, the Warriors twice and the Clippers twice, of which they only beat Los Angeles once -- but concerns have risen beyond the competition. As fun and funky as the Timberwolves are, Oklahoma City should not be losing to them. Kevin Durant took the blame after the game for a rash of turnovers that have been hurting the Thunder lately, including 24 times coughing up the ball on Friday.
Oklahoma City still holds a two-game lead over the Clippers for the No. 3 seed, but keep dropping games to the likes of the Timberwolves and that advantage could be in jeopardy. In all likelihood, it's just a temporary blip that can be partly blamed on the schedule. Still, it's worth watching the Thunder, especially given they have to turn right back around and play the Spurs on Saturday.
The zombie Grizzlies keep winning, somehow
The Memphis Grizzlies are missing Marc Gasol, Mike Conley and Zach Randolph right now. Their season should be in the midst of a severe nosedive, but Memphis is somehow finding ways to make it work still. Four days ago, Tony Allen scored 26 points while the Grizzlies beat Cleveland. On Friday, it was Lance Stephenson and Matt Barnes who took over, allowing Memphis to eek out a win against New Orleans in overtime.
Yes, that Lance Stephenson scored a career-high 33 points off the bench on 12-of-20 shooting, while the 36-year-old Barnes improbably had a 26-point, 11-rebound, 10-assist triple-double. Hell, the Grizzlies started some dude named Briante Weber and played him 40 minutes after Mario Chalmers ruptured his Achilles the previous game. (Weber scored 10 with seven assists, so the early results are promising.) Memphis is being held together by glue and duct tape right now, and they need to keep beating bad teams to preserve their 3.5-game lead for the No. 5 seed. So far, so good -- somehow.
Play of the night
This is my play of the night, which, you might notice, is not titled the "crossover of the night." No, this play is so great, just in general. 1) The crossover, for starters, yes, of course. 2) The bench, which I'm convinced was prepared to run out of the entire arena had Iguodala's shot gone in. 3) Gerald Henderson, who bounced right up off his butt and still contested the shot with a hand in Iguodala's face! Good play. Basketball is good.