Lillard Breaks His Own Record To Lift Trail Blazers Past Magic

by Casey Holdahl
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PORTLAND -- It seemed as if the Trail Blazers were well on their way to a fourth-straight loss after the first two and a half quarters of Wednesday night’s game versus the Magic. Orlando was scoring at will, shooting 56 percent from the field and 57 percent from three, resulting in Portland trailing by eight going into the intermission, a deficit that went up to 11 early in the second half.

But early in the third quarter, Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard decided he wasn’t going to let his team drop yet another game, especially not at home and against an Eastern Conference opponent that they had already beat a few weeks previous.

The 6-3 point guard out of Weber State put up 27 points, thanks in large part to seven made three-pointers, in the third quarter and 41 for the game to lead Portland to a come-from-behind 115-112 victory in front of a crowd of 18,865 at the Moda Center.

“I was really pleased with the way we came out in the second half," said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts, who got the 400th victory of his career with Wednesday night's win. 'The first half was very disappointing with our defensive focus, aggressiveness, everything. I didn’t think we had much of an impact on the game at all in the first half defensively, but I liked, especially the third quarter, defensively we were much better and obviously Damian in the third quarter was incredible. He carried us like he does often."

And in the process, Lillard broke his own record for made three-pointers in a game with 10.

“It felt good," said Lillard. "I’d been struggling kind of shooting from three and I shoot a lot of them like after practice, sometimes before practice, I’m shooting and shooting. I knew eventually I would get hot and start making them. It just felt good, but I think a lot of that was because of us getting out and get some rhythm to the game. We stepped up our energy and I think the game just got better for us and it came within that.”

The Trail Blazers are now 13-8 overall and 8-3 at home this season. The win ends a three-game losing streak and extends Portland's winning streak versus Orlando to five games.

While it was Lillard who made sure Portland wouldn't suffer their first four-game losing streak of the season thanks to his play in the second half, Nik Stauskas was primarily responsible for keeping the home team afloat in the first.

Had the fifth-year guard out of Michigan not gone 4-of-7 from three for 12 points in the second quarter, Portland probably wouldn't have been close enough to make the comeback, even with Lillard hitting just about everything he put up in the second half.

"Once you see a couple shots go in, just start getting a little more comfortable, a little more confident," said Stauskas. "It helps me get good looks. Today was a day where I happened to be open a number of times, ET, Seth, they did a good job of finding me when I was open, got a good chance to knock 'em down."

Between Lillard’s heroics in the third quarter and Stauskas' timely shooting in second quarter, the Trail Blazers were able to go up by as many as 11 in the second half.

The Magic rallied in the fourth and were helped along by Lillard, McCollum and Turner missing eight of 10 free throws late in the game despite Portland being statistically the best free throw shooting team in the NBA.

"Well, it was not what I would have expected," said Stotts of Portland's free throw follies. "When you've got arguably your best free throw shooters, it should have been a 10-point win with free throws."

Luckily for the home team, Orlando turned the ball over four times in the final 1:45 to end any chance of completing the comeback.

“Just happy we’re getting back on the winning side," said Lillard. "I think the last three games that we lost we weren’t doing the things to give us a chance to win. Then in the first half tonight, we were making shots but we still weren’t focused and as sharp as we needed to be on the defensive end. That’s why we were down at half and I think coach came in and got on us and we just addressed it. We got out there, played more physical and with much more urgency, much better communication. That allowed us to get out and get some pace to the game and get the crowd into it when we turned it around."

TOP PERFORMERS

Damian Lillard led all scorers with 41 points on 13-of-22 shooting from the field, 10-of-15 shooting from three an 5-of-7 shooting from the line to go with eight rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block in 37 minutes. His 10 three-pointers set a new franchise record (nine, Lillard – four times, Nicolas Batum – once).

Jusuf Nurkić got his 11th double-double of the season with 16 points and 13 rebounds to go with five assists and a steal in 33 minutes.

CJ McCollum added 15 points on 6-of-17 shooting from the field and 1-of-5 shooting from the free throw line and Nik Stauskas rounded out Portland's double digit scorers with 18 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the field, with all those makes coming from behind the three-point line.

All five of Orlando's starters finished in double figures led by Nikola Vucevic, who went 8-of-12 from the field for 20 points to go with eight rebounds and seven assists before fouling out in 28 minutes.

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NOTABLE

• With the 115-112 victory over Orlando, Terry Stotts recorded the 400th win of his career. He is the 47th coach in NBA history to win 400 games.

• Portland won its fifth consecutive game against Orlando and completed a season sweep of the Magic for the second straight season.

• The Trail Blazers outscored the Magic 40-21 in the third quarter. It marks the highest-scoring quarter of the season for Portland.

• Portland made a season-high 19 three-pointers (of 39, 48.7%). Orlando shot 14-of-30 from the three-point line (46.7%).

• The Trail Blazers bench outscored the Orlando reserves, 37-36.

• Portland outrebounded the Magic, 47-37. Orlando’s 37 rebounds were the second-fewest by a Portland opponent this season.

• The Trail Blazers assisted on 24 of their 37 made  eld goals. The Magic had 28 assists on 42 made field goals.

QUOTABLE

"I honestly didn't know I had made 10. If I had known that, I probably would have went for (the NBA record). What is it, 14? Oh, I coulda got that, too." -- Damian Lillard

NEXT UP

Before heading out for a two-game road trip through Texas this weekend, the Trail Blazers host the Denver Nuggets in the first meeting this season between two Northwest Division rivals. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.