Lillard Gets 39 In Three Quarters To Lead Blazers Past Wolves

by Casey Holdahl
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PORTLAND -- Damian Lillard obviously works hard, but at times, he also make it look easy.

In a game they needed to win after a disappointing loss two nights prior, the Trail Blazers got a 39-point performance, capped off by a 30-foot three-pointer, from Damian Lillard to lead Portland to a 135-117 victory versus the Minnesota Timberwolves Thursday night at the Moda Center.

“I know I haven’t been my most aggressive this season,” said Lillard. “We’ve been trying to get to know each other, just been trying to find my way. After the last loss I was really frustrated, it was a game I felt our team really should have won on our home floor, coming off a solid road trip. A game that we should win, I just wanted to come out and be aggressive, be more assertive and try to lead the charge. It ended up being a great team effort.”

The Trail Blazers are now 4-4 overall and 2-2 at the Moda Center.

After losing to the Bulls at home Tuesday night despite holding a 20-point lead in the first half, Thursday’s game versus a Timberwolves team entering the night on a five-game losing streak and playing without Karl-Anthony Towns was about as close to a “must-win” for the Blazers as you can get less than three weeks into an NBA season.

And from the jump, Lillard played like it. The 6-3 guard scored Portland’s first five points and would go on to finish the first quarter with 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the field -- the rest of the starters combined to go 3-of-9. He also had an assist, meaning he scored or assisted on 6 of Portland’s 10 first-quarter field goals.

“I think (Lillard) had 15 points in the first quarter but at the same time, he did a really nice job with his assists, getting (Nurkic) involved” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “I just thought he played a good floor game, took advantage of his opportunities.”

But after Lillard kept the team afloat in the first quarter, the rest of the team came to life in the second. With Lillard looking to set up Jusuf Nurkic, the “Bosnian Beast” went a perfect 5-of-5 from the field for 10 points in the quarter.

Lillard still handled the bulk of the scoring -- he put up 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the field and 3-of-4 shooting from three in just under five second-quarter minutes -- but with contributions up and down the bench as well, Portland outscored Minnesota by 20 in the second quarter to take a 75-56 lead into the intermission.

“I think our second group coming off the bench really pushed that lead out for us,” said Lillard. “I remember at the end of the first we was down one, but that second group with Hoodie, Melo, GT, CJ and DJ, they really locked down on defense, rebounded the ball and moved the ball on offense and kind of pushed that lead out. I think that type of energy off the bench really pushed us forward to a dominant game tonight.”

After scoring 47 points in the second quarter, the second-most they’ve scored in a quarter in team history, the Blazers really needed just one more solid quarter to put away a rebuilding Timberwolves team. Lillard delivered once again, going 4-of-7 from the field and 3-of-5 from three, the last being a 30-footer from just outside of the pinwheel logo, for 13 points in the quarter.

“I felt like it was a game we should win but I was like, if we come out here and have a similar performance and a similar ending to what we had on Tuesday, it’s not going to be good,” said Lillard. “So I think it’s my job to recognize and know when to be more assertive, know when to try to be more in control of the situation.”

And with Derrick Jones Jr. scoring nine points in the quarter on 3-of-3 shooting and CJ McCollum shaking off a tough first half to score eight points, Portland managed to take a 111-80 lead into the fourth quarter.

Stotts turned the game over to the reserves in the fourth quarter, and while the Timberwolves did get the game to within 16, the situation never became dire enough to require the starters to return.

Lillard finished with 39 points, the fifth time he’s scored at least 30 points this season, seven rebounds, seven assists and three steals in just under 29 minutes.

McCollum made four of his nine three-point attempts t finish with 20 points while also tallying four assists and three rebounds. Nurkic had one of his best games of the season thus far, going 8-of-10 for 17 points while grabbing seven rebounds and handing out two assists.

Enes Kanter went 5-of-5 10 points, seven rebounds, two steals and two blocks in just under 14 minutes off the bench whole Jones Jr., Carmelo Anthony and Gary Trent Jr. all pitched in nine points.

D’Angelo Russell and Anthony Edwards, the first overall pick of the 2020 NBA Draft, each finished with 26 points in the losing effort.

Next up, the Trail Blazers head to California’s capital to face the Kings in in the first of two games between the two teams in Sacramento over the course of four days. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.


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