You’d have to admit it hasn’t been a stellar season for the Trail Blazers thus far. It’s hasn’t been Knicks awful, but 19-26 is a radical departure for a franchise perennially in the postseason. Let’s put it this way: There haven’t been a lot of highlights.
Just imagine what it would like if Damian Lillard wasn’t around. The guy is still a human highlight reel and on Monday against the Warriors he was at it again in a historic way.
Lillard scored a franchise-record 61 points during the Trail Blazers’ 129-124 overtime win, topping his 60-point performance earlier this season against Brooklyn.
“I guess if somebody’s going to beat my record, it’s good to be me,” Lillard said.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Lillard now has the two highest scoring nights in NBA history by a player 6-foot-2 or shorter.
Along the way, Lillard drained 11 three-pointers. So now he’s also the first player in NBA history with 60-plus points and 10-plus 3-pointers in a game.
It was that kind of night.
“One of my better performances in a game we needed to win,” Lillard said.
Lillard has managed to keep the Trail Blazers afloat in the Western Conference despite a slew of injuries that have hijacked the season.
No one could have expected guys like Pau Gasol, Zach Collins and now CJ McCollum to be lost. And as a result, everything Portland has accomplished has required more effort.
“We haven’t had this much adversity since I’ve been in the league,” Lillard told The Athletic.
So Lillard has devoted his efforts this season to doing whatever he can to push his team into the playoffs. He said he wants to see that on his resume, as well.
“You run out of adjectives,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “He’s an amazing player.”
It’s not like he hasn’t done this before. He averaged 29.4 points over the final 21 games of the 2016-17 season to the help the Trial Blazers squeak in by winning 18 of their last 26 games. Maybe he has it in himself one more time.
“Definitely getting closer to that time,” Lillard told The Athletic. “I think it’s more that right now because CJ is not playing, we just traded (Kent Bazemore and Anthony Tolliver), we are just a lot more shorthanded. It’s definitely necessary the last few games but it’s definitely getting toward that time.
Lillard said he felt really good all day and brought a lot of positive vibes to the arena.
“There comes a time in a season where everybody is tired, everybody is worn out, everybody is physically and mentally drained,” Lillard said. “And players have to go out there and make their mind up — are we going to do this or not? And as a team we just getting closer to that time where it all has to be left out there. We gotta go take it.”
And there to see it was teammate Carmelo Anthony, who scored 62 once against the Hornets when played for the Knicks. No one has ever scored more at Madison Square Garden.
“I think people who experience nights like this, it’s hard to explain to somebody who doesn’t have that experience, but you just feel it,” Anthony said. “Everything is in sync, everything is clicking, everything is going well for you from that morning that you wake up to shootaround … everything just feels good.
“It just happens, I mean, it’s just how the universe works sometimes, (how) the energy works like that, right? It’s nothing he did … I’m sure you guys (reporters) have, maybe not 60-point games, but in your line of work you feel good, writing a story and you know, everything is flowing when you are thinking about what to write. And at the end of it, you look and say, damn, I feel good about this one. (Scoring 60) is similar.”
Lillard broke the record by making a pair of free throws in overtime.
“The guy bumped me, and I was like, ‘I’m going down.’ They’re going to have to blow this whistle, and I’m getting these two free throws,” Lillard told The Associated Press. “And that was it.”