Damian Lillard dominates All-Star Weekend. Can Bucks guard use it to his advantage?

2024 NBA All-Star Game
2024 NBA All-Star Game / Stacy Revere/GettyImages

No one would stare in disbelief if you said that Damian Lillard has struggled in his first season with the Milwaukee Bucks.

He has struggled to fit in with his new team, and he's also been dealing with off-the-court issues that have not helped the cause. On top of that, the Bucks have dealt with changes to their coaching staff, bringing in Doc Rivers mid-season, adding more difficulty. The NBA All-Star break would give Lillard and the Bucks a much-needed break from game action to regroup.

Yet, the Bucks were still featured heavily throughout the All-Star festivities, with Lillard participating in the 3-point contest and All-Star Game as a starter, Giannis Antetokounmpo starting for the East and Doc Rivers coaching their team. Above all else, all eyes were on Lillard to see what he would bring to the table, defending his 3-point title and starting in the All-Star Game for the first time in his career.

He did not disappoint.

Damian Lillard dominates All-Star Weekend

Lillard would not be denied in the Starry 3-point Contest. After posting a 26 in the first round, he put up the same score in the final round, beating Minnesota Timberwolves forward Karl-Anthony Towns and Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young in dramatic fashion to become the first player to win the contest back to back since Jason Kapono in 2007 and 2008.

A day later, Lillard took the court as an All-Star starter for the first time in his career, and like he said after the game, that gave him a chance to go for MVP. Lillard scored a game-high 39 points, hitting 11 of his 23 3-point tries, two of which were from halfcourt. Helping the East score a record-setting 211 points in the win, Lillard earned the 2024 NBA All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP Award.

It was a huge weekend for Lillard, who became the second player ever to win two All-Star events in the same weekend. The first? Michael Jordan. Now, he will get a couple of needed days off, but upon returning, the question is whether or not this strong showing can help him once NBA play resumes.

Can Bucks guard use it to his advantage?

Although it surely does not equate to winning actual games, perhaps taking home two trophies this past weekend could give Lillard's confidence a jolt. Currently having one of his least-efficient years from 3-point range in his NBA career, hitting two halfcourt shots, scoring 39 points and winning MVP could be a nice reminder that he's still one of the best players and shooters in the game.

Shaquille O'Neale essentially told Lillard after the game everything that Bucks fans have been saying in that Rivers, Antetokounmpo and Lillard are the trio that will always garner the most blame when the team struggles, so they have to take charge and rally them. Lillard agreed, understanding that he has to not only get the team going but also get himself going down the stretch.

Now, after a few days of rest, Lillard will have to put those words into action. The biggest thing for the guard will be being more aggressive. There have been times when he's been too passive, deferring to his teammates rather than going for it himself. That's not always a bad thing, but it has prevented him from being the Lillard Milwaukee needs to get to the next level.

If the Bucks want a chance to contend for a title, they need Lillard to come out of this shell he has been in for most of the season to this point. With his confidence sky-high right now, it's possible he will turn a new leaf when the Bucks take the court again. With the third-hardest remaining strength of the schedule post-All-Star break, per Tankathon, the Bucks will need Lillard at his best.

Lillard got two nice trophies this past weekend, but getting one or even two more in couple of months would certainly mean much more. If that comes to fruition, this weekend could be viewed as what was a turning point for the star guard.

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