He sank three-pointer after three-pointer, he faked out his defenders with his step back jump shot and he made key layups with the game on the line. With 7:31 left in the fourth quarter, Lillard drove to the basket and scored to give the Blazers a 99-98 lead, their first lead since early in the second half. After the Nets retook the lead, Lillard scored his 56th and 57th points of the game on free throws to cut Portland’s deficit to three points with 40.4 seconds left.
He capped off his historic night with a three-pointer at the buzzer to finish with 60 points, setting a franchise record for points in a single game. But by then, the game was already out of reach.
Lillard’s record-setting outing wasn’t enough as the Blazers (3-6) suffered their fourth straight loss Friday, falling 119-115 to the Brooklyn Nets (4-4) at the Moda Center. The last time the Blazers lost four games in a row was during the 2017-18 season.
LILLARD CARRIES THE BLAZERS
Lillard scored over 50 for the seventh time in his career and sixth time in the regular season Friday night. Lillard last reached 50 points against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 5 of the first round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs. With his final three-pointer of the night, Lillard broke his own franchise record for points in a single game. He set the previous record in April 2017 when he scored 59 points against the Utah Jazz.
But while Lillard made key shot after key shot Friday, his teammates failed to come up big when it counted.
Lillard shot 57.6 percent Friday, going 19 for 33 from the field and 7 for 16 from three-point range. The rest of his teammates combined to shoot 32.8 percent from the field and 28.6 percent from the three-point line.
“We had trouble scoring,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “As a team we shot 41 percent and Dame was 19 for 33, so obviously, scoring was tough. Our defense was a little inconsistent. We didn’t really take away anything that they did well. They are averaging 36 three-point attempts, they took 37. They’re an offensive rebounding team, they got offensive rebounds and second chance points.”
With the Blazers down four points with 3:05 left in the four quarter, Lillard found Hassan Whiteside in the paint. But Whiteside’s hook shot hit the back of the rim and bounced out. Brooklyn guard Caris LeVert grabbed the rebound. Kyrie Irving then blocked a three-point attempt from Anfernee Simons 30 seconds later.
Irving sank a three-point dagger with 1:41 left in the fourth quarter to complete a 17-2 run for the Nets and give Brooklyn an all but insurmountable 115-105 lead.
RODNEY HOOD, SKAL LABISSIERE EXIT GAME WITH INJURIES
The Blazers can’t catch a break when it comes to injuries.
Starting small forward Rodney Hood played just six minutes in the first quarter Friday night before exiting the game due to back spasms. It was the second home game in a row where Hood was forced to leave early due to an injury. Hood suffered a knee injury against the Philadelphia 76ers on Nov. 2, but was able to return two days later for a game against the Golden State Warriors.
Skal Labissiere then landed awkwardly on his ankle with 10:42 left in the fourth quarter. After being subbed out, Labissiere immediately headed to the locker room. The Blazers later announced that Labissiere had suffered a right ankle sprain and would not return. Labissiere said after the game that he was sore, but hopeful that he avoided a serious injury.
Portland has been hard hit by injuries this season. Blazers forward Zach Collins underwent surgery earlier this week and is expected to miss at least four months, center Pau Gasol remains out as he continues to recover from foot surgery and center Jusuf Nurkic is expected to be sidelined until at least February as he works his way back from a broken leg.
The injuries Friday opened the door for guard Gary Trent Jr. and rookie forward Nassir Little to see extended minutes. Trent Jr. played 14 minutes and scored his first points of the season on a three-pointer with 9:30 left in the second quarter. Little made a layup with 1:58 left in the second quarter for the first points of his career. He then drove to the basket and scored with a two-handed dunk with 10:59 left in the fourth quarter. He finished the game with a solid eight points in 19 minutes, making a strong case for more playing time moving forward.
“He had a lot of energy,” said Stotts about Little. “I think he made some momentum plays. I liked his athleticism, his dunks, he got the crowd into the game, he got our bench into it. Down the stretch, he had some mistakes, which it’s tough for rookies out there, but for him to get his first real opportunity in an NBA game, I think he really provided a spark.”
The Blazers will host the Atlanta Hawks Sunday at 6 p.m. PT at the Moda Center. It’s the first of two meetings between the teams this season.
503-853-3761 | @jamiebgoldberg
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