Lillard Puts Up 50 Yet Again To Lead Blazers Past Pacers

by Casey Holdahl
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PORTLAND -- Like most, if not all, of the NBA community, Damian Lillard was hurting coming into the game versus the Pacers after news broke earlier in the day that Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven other souls died in a helicopter crash Sunday morning in Los Angeles. Lillard, like many of his peers, was unsure how he could play just hours after losing an idol, peer and friend.

"I don't even know how we supposed to play this game tonight," said Lillard prior to Sunday's game. "It's just one of those things that makes you sick to your stomach."

But Lillard was able to fight through the emotions to put up another 50-point performance in Portland's 139-129 victory versus the Pacers in front of a sellout crowd of 19,663 Sunday night at the Moda Center.

"I wouldn't say I used it or put it behind me, I just kind of played the game," said Lillard. "Once the game started, fouls started getting called, teams making shots, it kind of just turned into like a game. It was almost like an escape. Just in those moments where you're sitting on the bench, longer timeout, just sitting there randomly it came into my mind a few times. I was like 'Man, that really happened.' I think that was it, just played the game, tried to get lost into the game."

The Trail Blazers are now 20-27 overall and 11-11 at home this season. Portland has now won 11 straight games at home versus the Pacers and the last five regardless of location.

The game started with the Trail Blazers honoring Bryant, who wore No. 24, by purposefully taking a 24-second violation. On the next possession, the Pacers took an eight-second violation, an homage to the number Bryant first wore when he entered the NBA.

“It was just a way of honoring him," said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. "I can’t say we knew it was coming, I thought it was a great gesture. I think it started with San Antonio and Toronto, and then other teams around the league did it, I thought it was a great gesture for a great player in this league."

After honoring Bryant, both teams turned their attention as best they could to the task at hand. And no one on the court managed to emulate Bryant better than Lillard, who went 4-of-4 from the field, 2-of-2 from three and 7-of-8 from the free throw line to score 17 points in the first 12 minutes.

With Lillard continuing a hot streak the likes of which have never been seen in Portland, the Blazers took a nine-point lead into the second quarter, and after outscoring the Pacers by one in the second, took a 10-point advantage into the intermission.

The remainder of the game basically consisted of the Pacers going on runs to get the score to the high single digits only to have Lillard, CJ McCollum or Carmelo Anthony hitting a three or sparking a mini-run to push the lead back to a comfortable margin. While there were brief moments of trepidation in the fourth quarter, shooting 70 percent from the field while making eight of 12 three-point attempts in the third quarter to go up by as many as 21 points.

“I was really pleased with how we played," said Stotts. "Third quarter basketball was probably our best offensive quarter of the season, the ball was moving, sharing the ball, made shots, it was a lot of fun to watch, hopefully that’s something we can build on."

Lillard still had a bit more work to do, scoring 14 points in the fourth to reach the 50-point mark while ensuring the Pacers, who cut the lead down to seven with 5:28 to play in the game, wouldn't ruin another historic performance from the 6-3 point guard out of Weber State.

TOP PERFORMERS

Lillard finished with 50 points on 14-of-23 shooting from the field, 8-of-12 shooting from three and 14-of-16 shooting from the free throw line while also handing gout 13 assists, six rebounds and a steal in 38 minutes. With the performance, he became the first player in team history to score at least 50 points three times in one season. It was also the fifth time in NBA history that a player has scored 50-plus points on 23 or fewer field goal attempts. Lillard also joined Stephen Curry as the only players in NBA history to make at least eight three-pointers in three straight games.

CJ McCollum shot better than 50 percent from the field and 6-of-9 from three for 28 points in his first performance after missing three games with a sprained left ankle.

"It was tough, it was an emotional day, not just for me, I really feel for my teammates," saids McCollum. "I knew Kobe, we had a decent relationship where we would talk when we see each other but I’m just thankful I was able to express the impact he had on my life, basketball, my work ethic, my approach, my brother’s approach."

Hassan Whiteside put up another double-double with 21 points and 14 rebounds while also blocking six shots. Carmelo Anthony added 14 points while also grabbing eight rebounds.

The Pacers had six players finish in double differs led by 28 points from Jeremy Lamb and 27 points from Domantas Sabonis.

NOTABLE

• The Trail Blazers were 20-of-35 (57.1%) from 3-PT range, while the Pacers were 13-of-28 (46.4%) from deep. It was the second straight game and the fifth time in franchise history that Portland has made 20-plus three-pointers. It is the ninth time in NBA history that a team has had 20-plus three-pointers in consecutive games.

• Portland’s 139 points marked the team’s season high• Portland outrebounded Indiana, 43-31. Indiana’s 31 rebounds were a season low by aTrail Blazers opponent.

• Both teams shot above 50% from the field; the Trail Blazers were 49-of-90 (54.4%)while the Pacers shot 48-of-93 (51.6%).

• Portland had 17 second chance points to Indiana’s 13.

• Indiana dished out 31 assists to Portland’s 27. It was Portland’s fourth game of the season with 27 or more assists.

QUOTABLE

"I knew Lebron growing up too, and although he’s like Mount Rushmore great, Kobe was the one I didn’t really know, so that was a guy I was afraid to meet. That really hurt, just to see the reception across the country, all of the lives he impacted, people that didn’t know him. It shows you how special he was outside of basketball. I pray for his wife, his family because lord know what they’re going through." -- CJ McCollum

HIGHLIGHTS

NEXT UP

The Trail Blazers finish off a four-game homestead by hosting the Rockets in the third meeting between the two teams this season Wednesday night at the Moda Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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