How Kevin McHale Screwed Up On Damian Lillard's Game-Winner

By Ray Kim
Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports
Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

With the Portland Trail Blazers down by two late in Game 6, Damian Lillard sealed the deal as he hit a game winning 3-pointer with 0.9 seconds left against the Houston Rockets. It was truly an amazing shot that reminded us that the second-year All-Star is a cold-blooded killer.

Lillard got loose at the top of the key and launched a three with little contest. In fact, he was too wide open. If you watch his game-winning shot again, you’ll see him clapping as he comes off the screen because he knew no one was chasing him behind. This was a crucial coaching mistake by Rockets coach Kevin McHale.

First of all, McHale didn’t put Patrick Beverley on Lillard; he put Chandler Parson, who is 6-foot-9. Lillard is one of the fastest and quickest guards in the league. There is no way Parson can chase him off screens. Beverley was the only player who could match Lillard’s speed and quickness, but McHale decided to put him on Mo Williams, who is much slower than Lillard.

Secondly, Houston didn’t switch on screens. With 0.9 seconds left, the Trail Blazers were forced take a quick shot off as soon as they inbounded the ball, which means Houston didn’t have to care about mismatches. Even if Dwight Howard was on Lillard, Lillard wouldn’t have able to take advantage of his quickness against Howard, because there was so little time left. Had Houston switched on every screen, it would have been much tougher for the Trail Blazers to get a wide open shot off.

Lastly, Houston guarded the inbouder with 0.9 seconds left. They could’ve let Terrence Jones guard whoever was coming off screens to take a long range jumper instead of letting him guard the inbound and being useless.

I never liked McHale as a coach because of his stagnant fourth quarter offense and the way he uses his lineups. The mistakes he made on Lillard’s game-winner officially made him fireable. I would not be surprised if McHale gets replaced before next season.

Ray Kim is a basketball writer for Follow him on Twitter @RealRayKim. Email him at

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