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Damian Lillard sweeps All-Star weekend by adding MVP Award to 3-point title

All Star Game Basketball
Posted at 10:48 AM, Feb 19, 2024

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Milwaukee Bucks guard Damian Lillard came to Indianapolis with one purpose — to win.

On Sunday, the first-time All-Star starter headed home with a rare All-Star weekend sweep.

Lillard earned MVP honors by scoring 39 points, making 11 3-pointers and finishing with six assists, three rebounds and one steal, in the East's record-breaking 211-186 win over the West one day after earning his second straight 3-point contest. He's the first player since Michael Jordan in 1988 to earn two titles on back-to-back nights.

"I just know you've got to keep shooting the ball and I think in a game like this, it's going to be pretty loose and you're going to get your opportunities," Lillard said. "I just told myself I'm going to be aggressive and I'm going to keep firing. I saw a couple go in and after that it was just like I'm going after it."

He certainly did -- with flair, too.

At times it seemed he couldn't miss and nothing was out of his shooting range.

The eight-time All-Star's first 3 came from the NBA logo. In the third quarter, he hit a pull-up 3 from half-court before capping the night with a second half-court 3 late in the game.

Lillard finished his first appearance with the East by going 14 of 26 from the field and 11 of 23 on 3s for a team that broke the All-Star Game records for total points and 3s with 42.

His performance was every bit as impressive to his Bucks teammate, two-time league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, as it was to Kevin Durant, a two-time NBA champion and two-time All-Star MVP.

"It's hard to play defense when somebody's shooting 30, 40 footers over you," Durant said. "It was a great display of shooting tonight."

Lillard was one of eight players for the East who scored in double figures, one of three to top the 30-point mark. Boston guard Jaylen Brown had 36 after competing in Saturday's Slam Dunk contest and Indiana guard Tyrese Haliburton added 32 points and 10 3s after competing in two contests Saturday night.

Lillard bettered both of them, twice.

He was one of three contestants who eliminated Haliburton in the tiebreaking round of the 3-point contest and Brown wound up losing to two-time Slam Dunk champ Mac McClung on the final attempt of the night.

Lillard, meanwhile, was tied for the lead after the first round of the 3-point contest, made it through the tiebreaker then won his second straight title with his final shots of the night.

By Sunday, Lillard, who contended with injuries early this season, was clearly back at full strength.

"You could tell he was going for it," Antetokounmpo said with a big smile, perhaps envisioning what the Bucks can do with this version of Lillard over the final 26 games. "All we had to do as a team was get him the ball and he did what he does best. He makes a lot of things happen. He made 10, 11? He totally deserved it (MVP)."

For Lillard, who was traded to Milwaukee during the offseason, it might have been an even more important weekend off the court. New Bucks coach Doc Rivers led the East and with Antetokounmpo and Milwaukee's staff in town, Lillard got a chance to spend some extra time meeting and bonding with his third different coach since being acquired in an offseason trade from Portland.

But the league's 2013 Rookie of the Year and 2018 first-team all-NBA selection still had something to prove this weekend. And in two days, he delivered the kind of statement only he could with two memorable shooting performances to sweep the awards.

"Anytime you're mentioned in the same category as Mike (Jordan) it's an honor and it's a major accomplishment, even if it All-Star weekend," Lillard said. "If it was that simple more people would have done it since 1988. So that's a major accomplishment for me."