The Portland Trail Blazers have struggled to find consistent footing in 2019-20, but one player who has never wavered in what he does each night is their star guard, Damian Lillard. For anyone who might have thought otherwise, he gave them a case study in his abilities in a thrilling 129-124 overtime win against the Golden State Warriors on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Portland notched its fifth win in its last 15 games, but did so thanks to a dramatic, 61-point performance from Lillard. In doing so, he topped his own franchise mark of 60 points, which he set earlier this season in a 119-115 loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Nov. 8. (Before that, he also held the Blazers’ single-game scoring mark when he had 59 points in a 101-86 win against the Utah Jazz on April 8, 2017.)
On Monday, Lillard also set the team records for 3-pointers made in a game (11) and free throws made without a miss (he was 16-for-16 on free throws). His 61 points is also the most scored in a single game this season to date and the most points ever on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
”I guess if somebody’s going to beat my record, it’s good to be me,” Lillard said.
Lillard became the first player in NBA history with 60-plus points and 10-plus 3-pointers in a game, and just the sixth player with multiple 60-point games. He also had 10 rebounds for his 10th double-double of the season. He also joins Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Michael Jordan, James Harden and Kobe Bryant as the only players in league history with multiple 60-point games in a single season.
“We needed a win tonight,” said Lillard, per Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com. “It would have been a tough one for us to give up. We’ve got a good home stretch of games, a good opportunity to get some wins against some tough teams on our home floor so it was necessary and it was on time.”
It was a thrilling finish for the Blazers, too, in securing a win against the struggling Warriors. Portland had to climb from a 12-point third-quarter hole but eventually took a 110-109 lead with 2:26 left. They then needed a dazzling step-back 3-pointer from Lillard with 14.9 seconds left to force overtime.
Willie Cauley-Stein’s dunk put the Warriors up 121-115 in the extra period. Anfernee Simons hit a 3 to pull Portland closer before Lillard’s 3-pointer with less than a minute left tied it again. Gary Trent Jr.’s layup gave Portland the lead with 34.6 seconds to go.
Burks’ 3-pointer briefly gave the Warriors back the lead, but Lillard and center Hassan Whiteside each added a pair of free throws to seal it.
The crowd stood and cheered as Lillard made the free throw that gave him the record.
Lillard said he knew he had 59 points when he was fouled.
”The guy bumped me and I was like, ‘I’m going down.’ They’re going to have to blow this whistle and I’m getting these two free throws. And that was it,” he said.