Damian Lillard went off on Sunday night and reached multiple new milestones in the process.
Lillard, after scoring 41 points in the first half, notched a career-high 71 points in the Portland Trail Blazers’ 131-114 win over the Houston Rockets. Lillard shot 22-of-38 from the field and made a franchise best 13 3-pointers while playing 39 minutes.
— Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) February 27, 2023
"We've got 23, 22 games left after this, and we need to win as many as possible,” Lillard said on the court after the win. “Obviously being short-handed, I know that it’s going to be a team effort, but I feel like I gotta do my best to be aggressive and just try to do what I can to make sure that we get some wins. That's all the case was tonight. I wanted to be in attack mode. I got it going, and I just stayed aggressive.”
Lillard’s accomplishments Sunday night were lengthy. He now has five 60-point games in his career, which trails only Kobe Bryant’s six and Wilt Chamberlain’s 61. He has the eighth-highest scoring game in league history, and, at 32, is the oldest player in league history with a 70-point game. He is also the first person in league history to score at least 70 points in less than 40 minutes.
Only Chamberlain, Bryant and David Thompson have scored more points in a single game than Lillard.
Lillard entered the locker room at halftime with 41 points after draining eight 3-pointers in the first two quarters. He went 8-of-11 for 25 points in nine minutes in the second quarter alone. That made him just the second player in history to drop at least 40 points with eight 3-pointers, joining only Bryant, who did so in 2003. It’s also tied with Kyrie Irving for the second-most scored in one half in the past 25 seasons, behind only 42 points from Bryant in 2003, per ESPN.
“Having 41 at the half is insane,” Portland head coach Chauncey Billups said, via reporter Sean Harkin. “And then in the second half, he made every right play. Didn’t come out firing. He just wasn’t forcing at all.”
Lillard got to 50 points by the end of the third quarter, though the Rockets cut the lead to 14 points after trailing by as many as 23 in the period. He pushed to 59 after a huge and-one dunk over Jabari Smith Jr. midway through the fourth quarter.
— NBA (@NBA) February 27, 2023
Then, after sinking a pair of free throws, Lillard broke his career-high mark with a step-back 3-pointer over Jae’Sean Tate, his 12th of the night.
— NBA (@NBA) February 27, 2023
It didn’t end there. Lillard kept going, hitting another 3-pointer and getting to 71 points before the night was over. He kept trying to reach Klay Thompson’s single-game 3-point record of 14, but seemed gassed in the final minute and couldn’t quite get there.
In the end, Lillard still broke a franchise record for made threes in a game. He finished with six rebounds and six assists, and shot a perfect 14-of-14 from the free-throw line.
Jerami Grant added 13 points for Portland in the win, and Nassir Little put up 11 points and nine rebounds off the bench. They were the only other two Trail Blazers to hit double figures.
Alperen Sengun led Houston with 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Tate added 17 points of his own in the loss. Tari Eason finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds off the bench.
“It’s so great because of the efficiency,” Billups said, via 1080 The Fan’s Danny Marang. “Even when he had his career high, he still didn’t force [shots]. I thought it was a piece of art … It was a masterful performance.”