Damian Lillard Recaptures the Feeling
Lillard's fourth career 60-point game came at a perfect time as the Trail Blazers begun to string wins together.
PORTLAND, Ore. — It wasn't until towards the end of the third quarter that Wednesday started to feel like one of those Damian Lillard nights.
Lillard had 17 points in the second quarter to finish the first half with 26, including six of his nine three-pointers, but he's had plenty of halves like that, and the Trail Blazers were still in a tight one with the Jazz, one of the (many) teams in their same range in the Western Conference standings.
The free throw Lillard made with just over five minutes left in the third quarter kicked off a run of 20 straight points, this time mostly inside the arc with some acrobatic finishes at the rim. When he pulled up a couple of times from deep, it mostly felt like it was for effect. He didn't need those "Logo Lillard" shots, or even his typically elite grifting abilities (only 10 free-throw attempts on the night) to get to 50 through the first three quarters. This one felt less like a takeover and more surgical, until you looked up and saw the box score and realized what it was historically.
"Usually, I get into a groove where I'm just going without making those simple plays, and teams start to come after me sooner," Lillard said after the game. "This time, I was kicking it ahead, I was swinging it. It didn't feel like they came after me until the very end."
This 60-point game felt quiet because it was, in fact, the most efficient in NBA history, a fact Lillard himself couldn't believe when he was told it after the game.
"I'm just sitting here thinking, 'I had a shot towards the end of the shot clock, and if I hadn't shot that, it probably would have been a little bit better,'" he said. "And I missed a free throw? Damn."
Even without the fireworks typically associated with one of these scoring performances, a big, round number like the 60 Lillard ended up with, especially coming in the Blazers' second straight win, did a lot to recapture the feeling of the early part of the season, before the injuries and turnover issues caught up to them and they began the free-fall they've been in for the past month.