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Damian Lillard Outduels Stephen Curry as Blazers Roll to 137-105 Win

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As Damian Lillard blew away the Golden State Warriors, he also fanned the flames of the Portland Trail Blazers' postseason dreams.

Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers beat Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors at their own game tonight. In one of the most impressive displays in recent franchise history, Lillard scored 51 points to lead the Blazers to a 137-105 victory over one of the greatest teams in NBA history.

It's hard to overstate how overpowering Lillard was tonight.  Lillard played a nearly perfect game; he tied a franchise record with nine three-pointers, committed no turnovers, and became the first player in known NBA history to record 50+ points, 7+ assists and 6+ steals in a single outing.

Perhaps even more impressively, Lillard decisively won a mano a mano battle against a player who has recently been compared to the all-time legends of the game.

Game Flow

Both teams opened the game with a frenetic pace, and Golden State managed to score repeatedly in transition. But the Warriors' defense also failed to hone in on the hot Portland shooters, or cut off the Blazers guards driving to the lane. In a scene that should be familiar to Portland fans, the Blazers were able to slice and dice their way into the lane for easy buckets all quarter.

Lillard looked especially locked in - scoring Portland's last 10 points of the first quarter. Meanwhile, Curry was, at times, the only player that kept Golden State afloat by scoring off an array of quick jumpers, fast breaks, and screens away from the ball. The Blazers defense had no answer for the MVP. Despite that, Portland led 42-31 after the first quarter.

In the second quarter, the Blazers would extend their lead to 19 before the Warriors briefly put their imprint on the game. After 16 minutes of free-flowing basketball, Golden State finally clamped down on defense. Physical play took away Portland's transition opportunities, and on the other end the Warriors began to exploit the Blazers with quick passing and even quicker hitting Curry triples. Golden State cut the lead to 68-62 at the half.

After spending the half trading body blows, Curry and Lillard finished the second quarter with 24 and 19 points, respectively.

At this point, many opponents have folded when faced with a hot-shooting Steph Curry. The Warriors guard has been relentless in the third quarter all season, averaging a league high 9.8 points and, as a team, Golden State leads in third quarter point differential.

But tonight, the Blazers flipped the script. In one of the team's most overwhelming displays since the Perfect Quarter against San Antonio in 1991, the Blazers ran the Warriors off the floor. Portland was flying around in the passing lanes, forcing mistakes or bad shots, and limiting the Warriors to one shot on every possession. Golden State could do little right, committing 13 turnovers. On offense, the Blazers reignited the frenetic first quarter pace and ran constantly. On this night, Golden State lacked the wherewithal or focus to fight through.

Even when the Warriors seemingly did something right, the Blazers would outwork them and turn hustle into a transition basket. These types of plays would propel the Blazers to a massive lead:

Fittingly, Lillard outscored Curry 11-7 in the quarter, and the Blazers outscored the Warriors 36-13 before Golden State scored the final four points of the frame. The Blazers led 104-79 at the end of the third quarter.

At this point, the clock struck Lillard time. Dame went nuclear in the fourth quarter, hitting five three-pointers, including three in a row at one point, and scored 21 points. When the dust had settled, he had a new career high and the Blazers had their most impressive win of the season.

Analysis

Often when a player scores 50+ points, the team needs every free throw to pull out the victory. Brandon Roy's 52-point game came in a dramatic shootout against the Phoenix Suns that was in doubt until the closing minutes. When Andre Miller scored 52, the Blazers needed a Juwan Howard buzzer beater to eke out an overtime win over Dallas.

But here's the craziest thing about tonight's game: Damian Lillard could have scored 25 points and the Blazers still would have won by 20+ points. Outside of a brief run in the second quarter, Portland dominated from the opening minutes.

In addition to Lillard's career high, multiple players made major contributions for Portland. CJ McCollum sparked the third quarter run when he scored the Blazers first seven points by targeting a mid-range gap in the defense.  Mason Plumlee was a key factor in exploiting the open space created by the Warriors collapsing onto penetrating Portland guards. Gerald Henderson and Moe Harkless were active off the bench, both scoring in double figures and playing solid defense. Even Noah Vonleh got into the act with a pick and pop three pointer. In a way, this was might have been the most teamwork-oriented 50+ point game ever.

However, it's essential to note that Lillard was also completely dominant tonight. Winning a duel against a very hot Steph Curry (7-11 from three) is virtually impossible. Running away with it is unprecedented. Beyond that, Lillard played fewer minutes than any 50+ point scorer in NBA history. Add to that the historic pace of the 2016 Warriors, and it's safe to say that this game should go down as one of the best regular season performances in team history.

The take-away

This was only one game, and the Blazers will likely come back to Earth the next time they face the Warriors. The Golden State announcers Jim Barnett and Bob Fitzgerald pointed out that the Warriors' players are likely to remember this game and want some revenge in March.

But dismissing tonight's game entirely as a one-time fluke would be a disservice to Lillard and his team. Much has been made of Portland's difficult schedule down the stretch and how the tough opposition may hinder their playoff aspirations. Stealing tonight's game shows that the Blazers will be capable of unexpectedly winning some of those hard games and that the postseason dream is fast becoming a reality.

50 point games in franchise history:

This was the seventh 50-point game in Blazers history and the first since Andre Miller scored 52 against the Mavericks on Jan. 30, 2010. Previously Damon Stoudamire scored 54, Roy and Miller scored 52, Geoff Petrie scored 51 twice, and Clyde Drexler scored 50.

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