100 days of hoops, hardwood

100 Days of Hoops, Day 26; Shoot-first point guards

By Javier Barrera and Hami Arain

You live by the jump shot, you die by the jump shot. Players can shoot you in and out of games. They are two basketball clichés that are even more relevant in today’s NBA where shot selection and shooting percentages are what determines the quality of a shot.

Traditionally the point guard is the floor general, the facilitator and solely responsible for creating opportunities for his teammates through the team’s offense. Let’s take a look at three different point guards who were at some point in their career the best at their position.

Screen Shot 2017-10-13 at 8.25.19 AM
Data courtesy of Kirk Goldsberry, @kirkgoldsberry

The three guards above were traditional pass-first point guards with different strengths and skill sets. As the league has moved away from traditional point guard play, it has become an offensive league. Point guards are included.

Today on Day 26 of 100 Days of Hoops we look at that change through the lens of two shoot-first, offensive-minded point guards; Reggie Jackson’s and Damian Lillard’s 26point quarters.

Reggie Jackson, November 8, 2015, vs. Portland Trailblazers

Detroit Pistons v Portland Trail Blazers
Detroit Pistons point guard Reggie Jackson #1 (right) drives by Portland Trailblazers point guard Damian Lillard #0 (left) during the fourth quarter of their November 9, 2015, matchup.

Jackson exploded for a franchise-tying 26-point fourth quarter against the Portland Trailblazers ending with a career-high 40 points. It only took Jackson seven-minutes of game time to drop 26 points. During the span, he outscored the Trailblazers 26-5.

Jackson used his ability to get into the paint and got high-percentage shots near the cup when defenders refused to leave Andre Drummond in fear of easier, higher-percentage catch-and-dunk lobs. His ability to finish around the rim was his bread and butter that period. Check out his fourth-quarter shot chart below.

Jackson’s offensive outburst took the Pistons from down nine points, 96-87 to up 19,120-101 by the time the final buzzard sounded. In the process, Jackson shot his team into the win column by letting his offensive-mindedness and shoot-first, pass-second mentality take over.

It is not the most impressive scoring performance we have seen in a single 12-minute quarter but the fact that it came from a point guard should not go unnoticed.

While Jackson did that to the Blazers in 2015, Damian Lillard did it against the Detroit Pistons on April 8, 2017.

Lillard, a volume scorer, scored 26 in the first quarter to secure the Blazers franchise record for most points in a quarter.  His slew of points featured what you’d expect out of Lillard’s game.  Three-pointers, and-one’s, mid-range jump shots, floaters, reverse layups, you name it and he did it.

The Blazers were desperate to secure its playoff spot and Lillard delivered with 56 points on the night and MVP chants at the Moda Center in Portland.

“Sometimes you just get caught out there watching him when he’s doing his thing,” Moe Harkless said of Lillard after the game. “Tonight was one of those nights for sure.”

Lillard became the first player to score 59 while hitting nine three-pointers in that game.  The 26 point quarter certainly propelled the Blazers into the playoffs and confirmed Lillard’s legendary status in Portland which continues to this day.

The floor general of the court is starting to become the scoring machine.  Point guards are now asked to do a little more than just scan the floor and make the right passes.  Now, they are asked to score 20+ points for their teams to sniff the playoffs.

Lillard and Jackson prove that a higher standard is set for guards today.  They are franchise-changing identities.  They are what keep teams honest on defense.  They are now literally “points” guards.

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