Damian Lillard, a guard with the Portland Trail Blazers, is a wise veteran for many reasons.
The NBA is ruled by his consistently accurate shooting from any point on the court as well as his mastery of positioning himself and other players on the field.
Nevertheless, despite his performance of over 30 points on Friday night, his mental toughness may have been the difference in the victory over the Phoenix Suns.
Deandre Ayton went to the free throw line after getting fouled on a jumper attempt with only a few seconds remaining in overtime and the Suns needing two points to tie the game.
Lillard approached, spoke briefly, and then walked away.
Phoenix had to purposefully miss the second free throw attempt in order to rebound and make it in order to send the game into a second overtime after Ayton’s failed first attempt.
Just before the buzzer sounded, Jock Landale grabbed the missed free throw attempt and put just a little bit too much pressure on the shot.
Ayton has a career free throw percentage of 75%, so it’s not impossible to believe he would have missed if Lillard hadn’t intervened.
However, in the heat of the moment, when the game was on the line, Ayton may have been off his game when it mattered.