The celebration surrounding Damian Lillard’s record-breaking game was short-lived.
Lillard set a franchise high with 71 points – tied for the most in the NBA this season – and 13-pointers in the Portland Trail Blazers’ 131 -114 victory over the Houston Rockets on Sunday night.
“I enjoy those moments in the game when I’m just chasing people,” Lillard said, “when I’m in the mood to attack.”
But soon after the streamers fell on the court and the crowd headed for the exits, Lillard was invited for a drug test. Turns out, the seven-time All-Star who isn’t afraid to take 3-pointers from half court is afraid of needles.
“I know I have a lot of tattoos, but when you’re doing blood tattoos, it’s different than tattoos. It brought me down from here,” Lillard said, gesturing with his hand up and down.
And Lillard was tested on a night when he tied Cleveland’s Donovan Mitchell for the most points in a game this season after Mitchell also scored 71 in a win over Chicago on Jan. 2. His 13 3-pointers were also one shy of the NBA record. by Klay Thompson of Golden State in 2018. Thompson’s Warriors teammate Stephen Curry (2016) and Chicago’s Zach LaVine (2019) also made 13 3s.
Lillard broke his career mark of 61 points, which he made twice, on a 3-pointer with 4:42 left that also became his previous career record for 3s, which was 11.
Lillard is the only player in NBA history to score 70 points and make at least 10 3-pointers in a game, CBS Sports said. Four players in NBA history have scored 60 or more points in multiple games in a season. These players are Lillard, James Harden, Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. Only Lillard and Bryant have achieved that feat twice.
Known for his modesty, Lillard didn’t know how to celebrate.
“I think any hooper enjoys those moments when you’re hot, you’re in attack mode, you’re excited,” Lillard said. “But the stuff I’m struggling with later, like when I leave the court, I should be very happy, or what?”
In the final minutes of the game, the crowd at the Moda Center was on its feet, phones recording the moment, as they chanted “MVP! MVP!”
“He really, really stood out,” Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said. “It’s a skill. It’s an amazing thing.”
Even Mitchell noticed.
“My mom called me and said Dame_Lillard tied your record… now you have 72,” Mitchell posted on Twitter with some laughing emojis.
Lillard left the game with 44 seconds remaining, tied with Mitchell, Elgin Baylor (1960) and David Robinson (1994) for eight points-the most points in a game in NBA history. Wilt Chamberlain owns the league record with 100 for Philadelphia and New York on March 2, 1962, in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
Lillard, now 32, is the oldest player to score 70 points in an NBA game, according to CBS Sports. David Robinson, 28 years old at the time, once held this record, making Lillard the first player in 30 years to score 70 points in a game.
Lillard had 41 points, 8 rebounds and 3 pointers after halftime. It was a career-high half for Lillard and the most points in a half for any player in the league this season. He had 50 early in the fourth quarter.
In the end, he shot 22 of 38 from the floor and hit 13 of 22 3-point attempts. He was also 14 of 14 from the foul line.
Jerami Grant added 13 points for the Blazers, who totaled nearly 23. Portland is part of a group of eight Western Conference teams with just four wins in the past that are competing for a spot.
Alperen Sengun had 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Rockets, sitting in last place in the Western Conference with just 13 wins overall and nine straight losses.
Rockets coach Stephen Silas, who sat Sengun in the middle of the third quarter for the rest of the game, said “It’s not like we didn’t try, he made some bad attacks.” “But we need everyone to give effort in the field of security.”
Houston trailed 102-88 going into the final quarter, but scored the first six points of the period to close the gap to 102-94. Portland’s Grant’s 3-pointer extended the margin to 108-98.
Lillard’s 3, his 11th of the night to tie his career high, made it 113-103 with 6:43 left. He further organized car driving and discarded motorcycles. Houston couldn’t catch up.
Lillard started after sitting out Thursday night’s 133-116 loss to Sacramento. He participated in the NBA All-Star Game and won the 3-point contest last weekend.
Lillard has now scored 748 points in the past 19 games, according to CBS Sports. That takes his season-high average to 39.37 points per game.
The Blazers led 73-58 at halftime with Lillard becoming the 10th player since the 1996-97 season with 40-plus points at halftime. He had 15 games with 50 or more points, sixth-most in NBA history.
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