PORTLAND -- It’s been a matter of "if, not when" for some time now with regard to Damian Lillard setting the Trail Blazers’ all-time franchise scoring record. And if he keeps tying his own franchise records, as he did Monday night, that "when" will be a lot sooner than later.
The 6-3 guard in his 11th season out Weber State posted 38 points and tied his franchise record for three-pointers in a game with 11 as the Trail Blazers easily dispatched the Timberwolves 133-112 in front of a crowd of 18,021 Monday night at Moda Center.
“I think it’s one of those situations where you start seeing the ball go in, I think you’ve just got to let it ride, and that’s what I was doing,” said Lillard. “Each opportunity where I felt like it was a window where I could get a three off, I was shooting it. It didn’t matter the distance, if I felt like I could get it off pretty clean, then I was going to get it off.”
The Trail Blazers are now 15-12 overall, 7-6 at home and 2-0 versus the Timberwolves this season. Portland has now won four of their last five.
Lillard entered Monday’s contest needing 145 points to surpass Clyde Drexler’s mark for the most points in franchise history with 18,040 after putting up 36 points in 41 minutes in Portland’s win versus Minnesota Saturday night. But he didn’t take nearly as much time in the rematch, posting 11 points in the first quarter and 17 in the second while making eight of 10 attempts from three in the first half.
Damian Lillard Highlights (36 points) | Portland Trail Blazers | Dec. 10, 2022
He’d put up 11 points in the third quarter while also tying his record for three-pointers in a game with 11, though with the Trail Blazers taking a 106-84 lead into the fourth quarter, chances were slim that Lillard would have the opportunity to set a new franchise record for threes, break Klay Thompson’s NBA record for threes in a game with 14 nor get any closer to surpassing Drexler’s franchise scoring mark.
“If (Lillard) was five points from his career high, maybe,” said Billups of whether he considered putting Lillard back in the game. “But this game is a tough game and sometimes you’re going to be on the good side of that, sometimes you’ll be on the bad side of that and you’ve got to be able to respect your opponent. Dame is going to have a ton of these games, he just had one the other day. But he was on a heater and it was fun to watch, but he could always use some rest as well.”
Which he got. Lillard, along with Josh Hart, sat out the entire fourth quarter as Billups turned the game over to the reserves and then the deep bench with a little over six minutes to play.
So even though Lillard only needed one three to set a new franchise mark for threes and three to tie the NBA record, he knew his night as done, which he didn’t mind one bit.
“I knew I was close, obviously I was the one shooting the ball,” said Lillard. “But once we was up 20 or 22 or whatever it was, I’ve been around long enough to know I wasn’t going back in that game, so I got a heat pack on my thigh and that was it. That would be the thirsty thing to do, so I didn’t even think that Chauncey would consider that.”
But unless something truly catastrophic happens, Lillard will become the owner of Portland’s all-time franchise scoring mark sometime soon, perhaps as early as the midway point of their upcoming six-game road trip, which starts Wednesday in San Antonio. He doesn’t know exactly how he’ll feel when he surpasses that mark, but when he does, it will be fulfill one of the goals he set for himself when the team selected him with the sixth overall pick of the 2012 Draft.
Damian Lillard: "You start seeing the ball go in, you let it ride" | Portland Trail Blazers
“I think everybody here knows, it’s documented that I’ve always said I want to be the best, to be the guy where when they say ‘Who was the best to come through here?’ I want people to look and say ‘It was Dame,’” said Lillard. “Obviously scoring isn’t everything but when you start to get up in these types of numbers, that’s a major thing. And the fact that it’s Clyde Drexler, anybody who knows the history of the NBA is going to respect and honor that. Being a part of one organization for this long and being able to sustain this level of success and to catch a record like that, it means a lot to be in that position. And once it does happen, I think it’ll be just a major step in even furthering the direction of being what I want to be as far as being a Trail Blazer. It’s a major accomplishment.”
That accomplishment, imminent as it is -- Lillard now needs 107 points to surpass Drexler -- will have to wait at least a few more days. But getting another win versus the Timberwolves and moving into sixth in the West, 3.5 games behind the first-place Pelicans, isn’t bad either.
Lillard wasn’t the only Trail Blazer who had it going Monday night, as the team shot 54 percent from the field and 46 percent from three for the game.
Jerami Grant went 7-of-12 for 24 points to go with three rebounds, two assists and a block in 31 minutes. Jusuf Nurkic posted a double-double with 14 points and 16 rebounds while also handing out four assists in 25 minutes.
Shaedon Sharpe came off the bench to post 14 points and seven rebounds. Anfernee Simons finished with 12 points, six assists and four rebounds and Justise Winslow added nine points, 10 assists and six rebounds in 30 minutes.
The Trail Blazers now head out on a 10-day, six-game road trip starting with a tilt versus the Spurs Wednesday night at AT&T Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 5 p.m.