As if anyone had any doubts about how good Damian Lillard is or why the Bucks traded for him, all they had to do was watch Lillard’s Milwaukee debut. Or, just this shot.
Lillard scored 39 points — a record for Bucks’ debut — including a clutch 14 in the fourth quarter to lift Milwaukee past the 76ers 118-117 on opening night.
This may be the most telling stat: The Bucks were +13 in the minutes Lillard was on the court and Giannis Antetokounmpo was on the bench (courtesy ESPN’s Kevin Pelton).
For the 76ers, there were positives to take away. Tyrese Maxey had Sixers fans saying “Harden who?” on his way to 31 points, including 3-of-8 from 3, plus eight assists. Joel Embiid had 24 points and seven rebounds, while the Sixers got a hot Kelly Oubre Jr. shooting night with 27 points on 9-of-11 shooting (but a couple of painful mistakes down the stretch). There were moments this looked like an opening night, and new coach Nick Nurse was clearly experimenting and trying to find what works, but the 76ers hung on the road with one of the clear title contenders in the East.
The Bucks know what works, and it’s Damian Lillard.