A record-setting performance by Damian Lillard has put the Trail Blazers on the cusp of a playoff berth.
Lillard on Saturday scored 59 points, setting the franchise mark for points in a game, as the Blazers beat Utah 101-86 at the Moda Center to reduce their magic number to one for clinching the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Lillard made 18-of-34 shots, including 9-of-14 three-pointers and 14-of-16 free throws. He added six rebounds and five assists and played 42 minutes.
Lillard broke the franchise record of 54 held by Damon Stoudmaire (2005) and the Moda Center record of 52 held by Brandon Roy (2008).
"Damian was phenomenal,'' coach Terry Stotts said.
The performance couldn’t have come at a better time, as the Blazers played without Allen Crabbe (left foot soreness) and endured an off-night from CJ McCollum, who went 4-of-20.
“I realized what time it was for our team,’’ Lillard said. “We’ve worked too hard, and came too far … we have to win … we gotta get it done.’’
Lillard’s big night also moved the Blazers 1.5 games ahead of Denver with two games left. Denver plays at home Sunday against Oklahoma City. The Blazers can clinch with a Nuggets loss.
The Blazers also tied a franchise mark with only three turnovers.
The Blazers next play Monday at home against San Antonio and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told reporters after Saturday’s game that he would not rest any Spurs players for the final two games because he has been unhappy with the team’s physicality recently.
Lillard tied his franchise record by scoring 26 points in the first quarter, leading the Blazers to a 34-20 lead. The big start by Lillard and the Blazers didn’t carryover in the second quarter as Utah clawed to within 48-42 by closing the half on an 18-8 run. The run was keyed by a stalled Blazers’ offense that went nearly five minutes without scoring.
“I knew it was important for us to get off to a good start,’’ Lillard said.
Stotts also called the game the Blazers' best defensive effort of the season. He credited the switching abilities of Evan Turner, Maurice Harkless and Noah Vonlehon pick-and-rolls to holding Utah (49-31) to 40.3 percent shooting.
Next up: San Antonio at Blazers, 7 p.m. Monday (CSN)