Damian Does His Thing To Help Blazers Blow Out Knicks
PORTLAND -- After practice Monday afternoon, Damian Lillard spoke frankly about the situation the Trail Blazers find themselves in after playing a quarter of the 2019-20 season. He also discussed what he intended on doing about it.
"We've had a bad start to the season, difficult position to be in, but I see it as an opportunity to add something else to my resume, to come out of something like this and do it again," said Lillard. "That's what my mentality is."
And it showed Tuesday night.
The 6-3 point guard in his eighth season out of Weber State made his first four shots, including three three-pointers, on the way to scoring 31 points in 29 minutes to lead the Trail Blazers past the New York Knicks 115-87 in front of a sellout crowd of 19,393 Tuesday night at the Moda Center.
"I liked our demeanor on the outset," said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. "I thought Damian had a nice rhythm to his shots, I thought he did a nice job of managing the game... It was a game we needed to get."
The Trail Blazers are now 10-15 overall and 5-6 at home this season. Portland has now won six-straight versus the Knicks and their last three games against opponents from the Eastern Conference.
Typically, you would assume a team with as much talent as the Trail Blazers, despite being ravaged by injuries, would have a relatively simple time with a Knicks team that has just four wins, have lost nine straight and recently fired their head coach. But with the issues Portland has had coming away with wins this season, even against allegedly inferior competition, it's hard to imagine anyone assumed Tuesday's game would be a cakewalk.
But behind Lillard, who scored 11 points in the first four minutes, Portland went on an early 10-0 run to take a 12-7 lead. By time the quarter ended, Lillard had 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field and 5-of-6 from three and Portland had a 32-22 lead.
"I just think when things go well, I’m the person that people give a lot of credit to and when it doesn’t go well, I’m the first person that they’re going to look at," said Lillard. "So I think setting the tone with my actions and the message that we have in our huddles and before games and stuff like that, it obviously needed to be more uptight and sharper where this season, like I’ve never been an uptight person, I’m just like relaxed and I think when we came in today, it was just a level of like focus. A little bit more seriousness, like we understood that this was a really important game for us."
Portland continued to expand their lead in the second, though they took it to another level late in the quarter. Lillard and Hassan Whiteside going on a 14-2 run to take a 21-point lead with just over two minutes to play in the first half.
If the Knicks were going have even an opportunity to make a game of it Tuesday night, they'd have to come out strong to start the third quarter. But the Blazers made sure no such rally would materialize by starting the second half on an 11-2 run to take a 71-46 lead, effectively ending the competitive portion of the game.
Portland eventually go up by as many as 29 in the third and 32 in the fourth before the Knicks reserves managed to get the margin down to 28 by the final whistle.
"A team that we felt like we should beat on our home floor," said Lillard. "But I thought our approach and how we came out not looking at it like it was going to be an easy game or nothing like that, we respected our opponent. We did the right things defensively. We executed our defensive scouting report. And offensively, we executed as well as we have in a while, maybe this whole season. We went over a lot of plays, second group we went over a lot of plays, and I think everybody came into the game tonight with the right mentality. Everybody was focused and sharp. I think it showed in our performance. We did what we were supposed to do."
Damian Lillard led all scorers with 312 points on 9-of-15 shooting from the field, 8-of-12 shooting from three and 5-of-5 shooting from the free throw line. It was his seventh game with at least 30 points this season. He also added six assists and two rebounds.
Hassan Whiteside put up a double-double of 17 points and 15 rebonds while also adding five blocks in 28 25 minutes.
Anfernee Simons had one of his better offensive games recently, going 5-of-9 from the field and 4-of-7 from three for 16 points while also tallying five rebounds and three assists in 28 minutes.
CJ McCollum added 13 points and Carmelo Anthony went for 16 versus one of his former teams.
Six Knicks players finished in double figures led by 15 points from Julius Randle. Allonzo Trier scored 13 points off the bench.
• Portland’s 28-point win marked the team’s largest margin of victory of the season, and was the Trail Blazers second win by 20+ points.
• The Trail Blazers shot 17-41 (41.5%) from 3-PT range, while New York was 7-38 (18.4%). Portland’s 17 3-PM tied its second highest total of the season.
• Portland increased its win-streak against New York to six games.
• Portland outrebounded New York 58-47, with both teams recording 11 offensive boards. Portland’s 58 rebounds was its highest total in a non-overtime game this season (61, Nov. 10 vs. ATL).
• Portland dished out 20 assists, while New York recorded 16.
• The Trail Blazers outscored the Knicks on the fast break, 14-13.
"I mean, we've struggled to start the season so right now, why be afraid to try different things if what we've been doing this whole time has been giving us issues anyway?" -- Damian Lillard
With a four-game homestead over, the Trail Blazers hit the road for two games starting with a nationally-televised contest versus the Nuggets Thursday night in Denver.
"They’re the same team that we played in the playoffs; we are not the same team, so it’ll be different," said Stotts. "They are a good team. They are the same team that took us to game seven and they are at their place so it will be a challenge."
Tipoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.