Lillard Perfect For Nearly Three Quarters In Portland's Sixth Straight Win At Home
PORTLAND -- When Damian Lillard goes almost three full quarters without missing a shot from anywhere on the court, the Trail Blazers are always going to have a better than average chance of coming away with a victory. Such was the case Saturday night.
The 6-3 point guard out of Weber State went 9-of-9 from the field, 7-7 from three and 2-of-2 from the free throw line before missing his first shot with 41 seconds to play in the third quarter on the way to a game-high 31 points to lead the Trail Blazers to a 117-108 victory versus the Dallas Mavericks in front of a sellout crowd of 19,464 Saturday night at the Moda Center.
"I felt pretty good," said Lillard. "I said after the game my first shot that I made was a tough one but even when it left my hand, it felt good. I just had a good rhythm. Coming off an injury, each game I’m feeling better and better. I’m getting my speed back and my burst back. I missed some time so when I get that back and I’m also fresh, I’m able to do what I’ve got to do."
With the win, the Trail Blazers improve to 25-21 overall and 13-10 at home this season. Portland has now won their last three games and six straight at home, which extends their longest home winning streak of the season.
"Any time you have a rough stretch, when you give in to it, that’s when it keeps going and it’s hard to come out of it," said Lillard in reference to Portland's home losing streak earlier in the season. "But think our team, like we always do, we just stay with it through the good and the bad. When you do that, when you stay together and just keep believing, it’ll come back. It feels like it’s coming back."
The Trail Blazers never trailed by more than two points Saturday night, and even that deficit came early in the first quarter. Portland would eventually go up by as many 13 points in the first quarter and 18 in the first half before going into the intermission leading 62-45.
But having a sizable halftime lead is no guarantee of success in the NBA, so it wasn't exactly surprising to see the Mavericks cut the Trail Blazers lead to five after a Wesley Matthews three-pointer with just over five minutes to play in the third quarter. At that point, Dallas had outscored Portland 24-12 to start the second half, which surely caused some in attendance to wonder if perhaps the Trail Blazers home winning streak was in jeopardy.
But Lillard would hit two three-pointer with Evan Turner and Pat Connaughton each netting a triple in the next three minutes of play to push Portland's lead back up to 15 with 2:41 to play in the third quarter, though that would be trimmed to 14 by the start of the fourth.
The Mavericks got the deficit under double digits early in the fourth, and would go on to cut the lead to five with 38 second to play in regulation. But the Trail Blazers kept their cool, even with the game turning chippy, to come away with the victory.
“A good win, a good way to finish the home stand," said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts "I liked, particularly the first half, offensively and defensively we were really good. The second half, they got a lot of momentum. Obviously, the free throw line was a big factor, but I thought we fought through some challenging moments and came through it alright."
Lillard finished the game by going 10-of-15 from the field, 7-of-9 from three and 4-of-4 from the line for 31 points to go with nine assists and five rebounds in 38 minutes. It was the first time in Lillard's career that he scored at least 30 points on 15 or fewer attempts.
CJ McCollum didn't shoot 67 percent from the field like his backcourt partner, but he was impressive nonetheless, going 11-of-23 from the field for 26 points, four rebounds, two assists and a steal in 38 minutes.
Evan Turner went 7-of-13 from the field and 2-of-4 from three for 17 points in 30 minutes. Al-Farouq Aminu shot 50 percent from the field to finish with 13 points, two rebounds, an assist and a steql in 34 minutes. Jusuf Nurkić rounded out Portland's double-digit scorers with 10 poingts and six rebounds in 24 minutes.
Ed Davis grabbed 10 rebounds, five offensive and five defensive, while also scoring six points on 3-of-5 shooting. Shabazz Napier came off the bench to added eight points in 27 minutes.
Wes Matthews led the Mavericks with 23 points, with Dirk Nowitzki and Dennis Smith Jr. each finishing with 21 points.
TERRY MAKES THE CASE FOR DAME
As expected, Damian Lillard was not named one of the five Western Conference starters for the 2018 NBA All-Star Game. But he’s still got a chance to make the team via the coaches vote, which will be announced Tuesday night.
And while coaches aren’t allowed to vote for their own players, Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts made the case for his starting point guard prior to Saturday night’s game at the Moda Center.
“I would think that (Lillard's chances) are very good,” said Stotts, who said he has made his picks but hasn’t yet sent in his ballot. “The last two years he didn't make it, he deserved to make it but our record wasn't very good. Based on that, it was understandable. But now, with the record that we have and him being the best player, the responsibility that he has of carrying a team every night, I don't think there should be much doubt. I think everybody in Portland knows how good he is and how important he is to our team and our success.”
• The Trail Blazers have won six straight games at Moda Center, their longest winning streak at home this season.
• Portland tied its season high for three-pointers with 18 on 36 attempts (50.0%).
• It was the first game this season that the Trail Blazers shot better than 50.0% from the field (52.3%) and from the three-point line (50.0%).
• All five Portland starters scored in double figures for the sixth time this season.
• Portland has scored at least 110 points in nine of its last 11 games.
• The Trail Blazers outrebounded the Mavericks, 40-37, and outscored them in the paint, 42-36.
• Portland had 16 second chance points off of nine offensive rebounds while the Mavericks had 11 second chance points off of 11 offensive rebounds.
"Ed made a difference. He does what he does – extra possessions. I thought the extra possession that he kicked out for a three was a big play for us. Defensively, he just continues to hold the fort inside." -- Terry Stotts on the play of reserve center Ed Davis
With a three-game homestand now in the books, the Trail Blazers play seven of their next 10 games on the road starting with a tilt Monday night in Denver versus the Nuggets. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Northwest and Rip City Radio 620 AM.