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PORTLAND, Ore. – – No offense to the Utah Jazz, but Damian Lillard said it was pretty easy to score 60 points against them. Not easy, just easy.
Lillard had a season-high 60 points and hit nine 3-pointers, and the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Jazz 134-124 Wednesday night.
Lillard earned the second-most points in the NBA this season. Donovan Mitchell had 71 in an overtime game for Cleveland against Chicago on January 3, and Luka Doncic had 60 in Dallas’ OT win over New York on December 27.
“I think every time you get 60 points it’s special, but I think this time I felt like it was pretty easy,” Lillard said. “I thought I played the game the way it should have been played. I knew we had to win, so I came out with a mentality to attack and be aggressive, but it wasn’t like I just burst into flames. It wasn’t one of those games.
Jerami Grant added 19 points to help Portland win its second straight game.
Lauri Markkanen led the Jazz with 24 points. He had a layup followed by a top shot left at 5:20 that put Utah 115-108.
Grant and Anfernee Simons had back-to-back dunks to put Portland ahead 121-110, and the Blazers comfortably led the rest of the way.
When Lillard got to the free-throw line late in the game, the home crowd stood up and shouted “MVP! “MVP!” Lillard hit both free throws to make 60 but missed a long-range jumper by 29.1 seconds that would have surpassed his career best of 61.
He wasn’t even aware he was nearing his career peak until Blazers coach Chauncey Billups informed him after those free throws. Lillard thought he would come out.
“The next time I came down, they double-teamed me and I got up real quick for three, and then they came down and scored,” Lillard said. “There was still time on the clock but I wouldn’t be thirsty to come back with that much time in the game just to hit a career high.
Lillard has four career games with 60 points or more. He has reached 61 twice.
Jazz coach Will Harvey was asked what Utah could have done to stop Lillard after double-calling him for much of the game.
“I think theoretically we could have sent three people on him,” Harvey quipped.
After battling for much of January, the Blazers earned a morale-boosting 147-127 win over San Antonio on Monday.
Lillard finished 21 of 29 from the field, 9 of 15 on 3s, and 9 of 10 at the line. He also had eight assists, seven rebounds and three steals.
During the third quarter, Lillard scored 20 straight Portland points.
“You just sit back and just enjoy it,” said Blazers teammate Nassir Little as he watched Lillard turn 60. “Admire its size.”
Jazz: The short trip to Portland was in the middle of two jazz homestands. They played three games in Utah before the game and then returned home for five games. … Markkanen has had a 3-pointer in 37 straight games, the most for an NBA 7-footer.
Trail Blazers: It was the fourth game of six home games for the Blazers. … Portland was hurt in the first half when starter Josh Hart left with a hamstring injury and didn’t return. Jusuf Nurkic left the game in the third quarter with a left calf pain and didn’t return. … Lillard advanced to sixth on the league’s all-time 3-point list, overtaking Vince Carter.
Lillard is among only five NBA players with four or more 60-point games. Wilt Chamberlain tops the list with 32, followed by Kobe Bryant with six. Lillard, James Harden and Michael Jordan have all four.
“I’m not catching Wilt,” Lillard laughed.
Jazz: hosts Dallas on Saturday night.
Trail Blazers: host the Raptors on Saturday night.
AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP–Sports
Jazz vs. Trail Blazers – NBA Game Recap – January 25, 2023 – ESPN – S Chronicles
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