Home Win Streak Extended As Lillard Scores Season-High 39 Versus 76ers
PORTLAND -- After a breakneck start to their 2021-22 regular season, the Portland Trail Blazers’ schedule has finally started to ease up. So with two days off, a rarity as of late, in between games this week, the Blazers were able to get in a practice on Thursday at their facility in Tualatin for the first time in weeks.
But it wasn’t enough for Damian Lillard. After going through a two-hour practice, talking to media and getting treatment, the 6-3 guard in his 10th season out of Weber State wanted to get in a bit more more. He’s struggled with his shot in the first month of the season, at least by his lofty standards, so with some free time at his disposal, he wanted to take the opportunity to get up some some additional shots.
But finding an open gym isn’t so easy these days, but after a few calls, Lillard was able to secure a familiar court: the hardwood at Moda Center.
“Trying to get into a gym to just get some sharp reps,” said Lillard. “Coming out of COVID, the gyms are filling up and people are trying to pay to get some time to use courts and stuff like that. If it was one that I knew I would be able to get access to, it was this one. Why not come to the place that we play, so that’s what I did.”
Those extra reps seemed to pay off Saturday night.
Lillard put up a season-high 39 points on 48 percent shooting from the field, 38 percent shooting from three and perfect 14-of-14 shooting from the free throw line to lead the Trail Blazers to a 118-111 victory versus the Philadelphia 76ers in front of a crowd of 17,027 Saturday night at Moda Center.
“Obviously he played really hard, (Lillard) earned every single one of those 14 free throws tonight,” said Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups. “I think this was kind of what people are accustomed to seeing when he attacks: him getting double digit free throws. This is the first time this year he’s able to do that, he knocked them all down. But I just thought he attacked all night, and even when they showed him two people, he made the right pass. It was good for him to have a night like this.
The Trail Blazers are now 9-8 overall and have won their last eight games at Moda Center, their longest home win streak since the end of the 2018-19 season. With the win, the Trail Blazers and 76ers split the season series 1-1.
Unlike in most games this season, even eventual wins, the Trail Blazers didn’t dig themselves a first-quarter hole in Saturday night’s contest, thanks in large part to Damian Lillard’s 12 points in the first 10:28 of game. And after holding a lead for almost the entirety of the game, the Trail Blazers were able to hold off a late-game Philadelphia rally due to Lillard’s 13 points in the fourth.
Lillard wasn’t the only reason the Trail Blazers were able to get some semblance of redemption after being soundly beaten by the 76ers in Philadelphia a little less than three weeks ago -- CJ McCollum had 18 points, Norman Powell had 17 and Jusuf Nurkic posted a double-double -- but as he’s started to come out of his early-season slump, so too has Portland, at least at home.
“It was a slow start, just struggling shooting the ball,” said Lillard. “Just wasn’t working for me. But I said it after the last time we played Philly: These moments give you an opportunity to rise, something to come back from. It shows your true character whether you can deal with struggles and deal with hard times and criticism and everybody kicking you when you're down. Just continuing to fight that fight and find a way. I think the best of the best are capable of that. That's just been my mentality is to just keep on moving forward. Keep doing the work. Keep my mind clear. Keep my mind strong and eventually it'll start to click and I think over the last two weeks or so, the last five or six games, I’m starting to feel better and better.”
Damian Lillard led all scorers with a season-high 39 points on 10-of-21 shooting from the field, 5-of-13 shooting from three and 14-of-14 shooting from the free throw line to go with seven assists and three blocks in 37 minutes. It was the fifth time in Lillard’s career that he blocked at least three shots in a game.
CJ McCollum went 7-of-17 from the field and 4-of-9 from three for 18 points to go with six rebounds, five assists and a steal in 36 minutes. Norman Powell went 6-of-11 for 17 points and two assists in 29 minutes.
Jusuf Nurkic added a double-double with 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting and 11 rebounds while also tallying three assists, two steals and a block in 23 minutes. Nassir Little went 5-of-7 for 11 points and four rebounds in 21 minutes.
Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris both finished with 28 points for Philadelphia.
• The Trail Blazers won their eighth straight game at Moda Center. It ties the longest home winning streak for the Trail Blazers since March 9 – April 10, 2019.
• Portland and Philadelphia split the 2021-22 season series, 1-1.
• The Trail Blazers outrebounded the 76ers, 38-32.
• Portland shot a perfect 23-of-23 from the free throw line. Philadelphia made 19 of its 21 free throw attempts (90.5%).
• The Trail Blazers connected on 44.1% of their three-point shots (15-34) while the 76ers shot 35.7% from deep (10-28).
“I’ve hit shots in the fourth, made plays in the fourth and defensively bringing the intensity that we need, rebounding, all that type of stuff. I think I’ve earned Coach’s trust. Whenever he calls my number, I’ll be ready.” -- Nassir Little on being a part of the fourth-quarter rotation
After two days off, the Trail Blazers wrap up a four-game homestand by hosting the Denver Nuggets in a nationally-televised contest Tuesday night at Moda Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.