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Damian Lillard returns from calf injury in Blazers' win over Pacers

Damian Lillard scores 21 points to power Portland past Indiana in his 1st game since Nov. 19.

Damian Lillard shoots against the Indiana Pacers on Dec. 4, 2022.

Portland’s superstar point guard suited up for the first time since Nov. 19, scoring 21 points in the Blazers’ 116-100 win over Indiana on Sunday. The six-time All-Star added four rebounds and six assists while shooting 5-for-10 from deep.

Lillard had missed 12 of his previous 18 games after initially straining his left calf against Miami on Oct. 26, then re-aggravating the injury in a five-point loss to Utah.

Damian Lillard hits the 3-pointer in his first game back from injury.

The win Sunday helped Portland sweep a back-to-back set after winning in Utah on Saturday night.

One night after Jerami Grant and Anfernee Simons combined to score 78 points in that win against the Jazz, Lillard wanted to make sure his return didn’t lead to them turning down their own offense.

“Don’t let me stop you from being aggressive,” Lillard said of Grant and Simons, who combined to score 50 in Sunday’s win. “I’m going to have the ball in my hands and I’m going to find opportunities to do what I do. That’s what I do.”

Lillard connected on his first field goal attempt — a step back 3-pointer from the corner. With Lillard back in uniform, Portland kept the Pacers at bay for much of the game. Although the Pacers jumped out to an early lead in the first quarter by hitting six of 10 shots, Portland was in control for most of the game.

“If we’re really going to win, then it has too be collective,” Lillard said. “It’s really encouraging for me to see it really unfold.”

Lillard, who appeared on track for a bounce-back season before the injury forced him out of the lineup, leads Portland in points (26.3), assists (7.0) and free throw attempts (8.7) per game this season.

The Blazers began the season 9-3, but had gone just 2-5 over the most recent stretch without Lillard. At 13-11, they are No. 8 in the Western Conference, but just 2 1/2 games behind the conference-leading Phoenix Suns.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.