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Damian Lillard said it may have been Portland’s best win of the season. Lillard finished the first quarter with 18 points. Portland led 63-51 at the half. Portland jumped out to a 19-8 lead after Lillard hit a pair of 3-pointers and McCollum added another. Lillard’s layup extended the Blazers’ lead to 38-18.
Lillard had 44 points and eight assists, and the Trail Blazers overcame Kevin Durant’s 50 points to snap a seven-game losing streak to the Golden State Warriors with a 123-117 victory on Wednesday night.
We’re starting to enter the territory of elite players. Then again, the NBA is a notoriously top-heavy league, so all of the names in this group are still probably too young (Hi, Aaron Gordon), too old (Kyle Lowry) or too otherwise flawed to be the No. 1 player by value over the next six seasons. But this portion of the list features some fascinating possibilities for future league leaders, including John Wall and his breakneck speed, Damian Lillard and his endless range, and Kristaps Porzingis and Ben Simmons, who both have freakish star potential. (Though we won’t really see what Simmons can do this year until he returns from a foot injury.) And although Chris Paul slipped down to No. 12 from eighth place last year, he’s played like a man possessed in the early going this season.
The biggest name on the upward move this week is Damian Lillard, who leapt past Kyle Lowry and LeBron James to land at No. 8. Lillard has averaged about 30 PPG in the past month, which is a level Lowry can’t attain on the Toronto Raptors. He also shoots high-volume free throws at a terrific clip and has little chance of being rested late in the season, which gives him an edge on LeBron.
His two free throws gave Phoenix its biggest lead, 93-78, with 7:26 to play. Lillard triggered the subsequent 18-4 outburst that caught the Suns at 97-97 on his 3-point play. Booker’s fifth and final 3-pointer gave the Suns a 100-97 lead with 2:19 to go. Lillard’s 3 tied it at 100 with 1:10 left.
Damian Lillard, coming off a 50-point game against Sacramento on Friday night, had 39 points for Portland. The Blazers had won nine in a row at home.
“Like I said, it’s a tight race. There’s a lot of teams in the mix and you get to the point of the season where teams are fatigued physically and mentally,” Lillard said. “To be a leader of a team you’ve got to be willing to lead the charge, and not just by saying it, it has to be your actions.”
Booker’s powerful driving basket put Phoenix up 104-102 with 33.6 seconds to go. But, after a timeout, Lillard’s step-back 15-footer tied it at 104-104 with 28 seconds left. The Suns called time out to set up the play but, on the sidelines, Daniels couldn’t get the ball inbounds for the five-second call. Lillard hit a jumper over Crowder’s outstretched arm and nba jerseys wholesale added a free throw to give the Blazers a 26-19 lead at the end of the opening quarter. Portland stretched the lead to 30-19.
Favors came down hard in the second quarter was holding his right ankle, but then dunked on the other end to close the Jazz to 30-26. Crowder hit a 3-pointer that pulled the Jazz to 39-36, but they couldn’t get closer until Gobert dunked and had a pair of free throws to get Utah within 44-43 at halftime.
How about another couple of players who are dealing with long-term health issues? There remains no timetable for Nikola Mirotic to return from his surgeries that dealt with appendicitis and a hematoma. Even if he manages to get back on the hardwood in the next couple of weeks, it will take a while to get his game legs under him, so there is little incentive to have him rostered until we know a return is imminent.