Damian Lillard re-wrote the Portland Trail Blazers’ record books tonight by scoring 59 points and leading his team to a 101-86 win over the Utah Jazz. Lillard’s 59 set a new franchise record for points in a game, eclipsing Damon Stoudamire’s 54-point game from 2005. Lillard also tied Blazers’ records for points in a quarter (26) and 3-pointers in a game (9).
The Jazz smothered Lillard when the two teams met last week. Lillard finished with only 16 points and 3 assists on 5-for-20 shooting. But Dame made it clear from the opening tip that fans would not witness a repeat performance tonight. He easily surpassed his scoring total from the previous game in the first quarter alone, scoring 26 points. In fact, Lillard scored or assisted on 32 of Portland’s 34 points in the quarter. Utah, meanwhile, managed only 20 points.
Yes, you read that right. LILLARD OUTSCORED THE JAZZ 26-20 in the first 12 minutes.
Dame took his usual respite to open the second quarter and the Blazers struggled to only four points in six minutes without their leader. Lillard re-entered the game mid-way through the quarter, but the Jazz managed to hold him scoreless and cut the lead to six (48-42) at the half.
The second half opened much like the first half: With the clock striking Lillard Time. Dame again asserted his will and scored 19 of Portland’s 29 points in the quarter. Utah struggled to 18 points in the period.
Yes, you read that right, again. LILLARD OUTSCORED THE JAZZ 19-18 in the third quarter.
The fourth quarter began with the Blazers leading 77-60 – at this point Lillard had 45 for the game. The Jazz spent most of the fourth shadowing Lillard with multiple players to try to stop his hot shooting and spark a comeback. But Utah’s defensive pressure simply didn’t matter. Lillard hit three more 3-pointers in the quarter, two of them hotly contested, and added five more free throws to bring his point total to 59. The Jazz tried to mount a comeback but just couldn’t keep up with Lillard’s flamethrowing. In the end, Lillard and the Blazers prevailed 101-86.
Amazingly, Lillard outscored the Jazz singlehandedly in the first and third periods combined, 45-38. All told, he also outscored his teammates 59-42 – none of the other Blazers even reached double figures until mid-way through the fourth quarter. And he was the only Portland player to even make it to the free throw line, establishing another record:
Damian Lillard (14-16 FT) becomes the first player in NBA history to attempt 15+ free throws while his teammates attempted none.— Trail Blazers PR (@TrailBlazersPR) April 9, 2017
Dame is no stranger to 50-point games; this was the third of his career. But Lillard’s previous career nights were largely symbolic. He achieved the gaudy numbers by either running up the score in an already decided game (vs. Golden State) or making a furious comeback in a game that had already been lost (vs. Toronto).
In contrast, there was nothing symbolic tonight. He singlehandedly led the Blazers to victory from wire-to-wire against a team that had thoroughly outclassed them only a few days ago. Outscoring your teammates by 17 is no joke, and scoring 45 points through three quarters to your opponent’s 60 is downright Chamberlain-esque. Add in the fact that this game moved the Blazers within inches of a fourth consecutive playoff berth, and it becomes one of the great regular season performances in team history.
In addition to Lillard’s offensive fireworks, the Blazers deserve credit for playing stalwart defense. The Jazz out-physicaled Portland in the previous matchup, but tonight the Blazers were ready to challenge every offensive option the Jazz had. Utah finished shooting only 40.3 percent from the field (31-for-77) and with only 6 triples to Lillard’s 9.
The Blazers also all but neutralized Utah’s size advantage on the boards (47-46), despite Jusuf Nurkic’s absence, and took care of the ball – only a single turnover through three quarters. With Lillard going supernova, and any other advantages negated, the Jazz simply couldn’t keep up.
The Blazers now turn their attention to the San Antonio Spurs on Monday night. Portland has two games remaining on the schedule and only needs to win a single game to secure the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. If tonight is any indication, Damian Lillard will make sure the Blazers punch their playoff ticket sooner rather than later.
Eric Griffith | @EricG_NBA | GoBlazers87@gmail.com