Welcome to 2019 where the Trail Blazers get scoring from several players, the defense shows up, and Jusuf Nurkic is everywhere.
New Year's Day in Sacramento featured: A flu bug and an historic performance.
And no, those two were not from the same player.
As Blazers sideline reporter Brooke Olzendam reported at the start of the game, Damian Lillard was not feeling 100 percent, but even though he started feeling sick the night before it wouldn't stop Lillard from suiting up. It just meant Lillard was playing with a flu bug.
With Lillard not playing at full strength, it was the Bosnian Beast and Seth Curry who came to the rescue early.
In a game for the record books for Jusuf Nurkic, all eyes were on the 24-year-old throughout the game. The Blazers big man has now become the only player in NBA history to have 24 points, 23 rebounds, seven assists, five blocks and five steals in a game.
Let that soak in. That is a phenomenal stat line.
As for Curry, in his first stint of 12 minutes, he went 5-of-7 from the fieild, including 3-of-5 from three and 2-for-2 from the free throw line to score 15 points which tied for leading scorer at the break. Curry got things going quickly too. He had 10 points in his first eight minutes of action. Nurkic also had 15 points to go along with 11 rebounds in the first half.
Curry finished the game with a season-high 18 points.
But, this game came down to the wire and Lillard was there for it.
That was a hell of a game. I loved our effort to finish regulation. Damian was incredible at the end of the fourth. Obviously, Nurk had an outstanding game,” Blazers head coach Terry Stotts told reporters postgame.
The Kings went on a 12-0 run midway through the 4th quarter which is no surprise since Sacramento is leading the league in fourth quarter scoring, but Portland had a run of its own. The Blazers answered with an 11-2 run to close the 4th quarter.
And who led the way?
The flu does not alter Lillard Time.
Sacramento held a 101-94 lead with just over two minutes to go in the game, but that’s when Lillard took over. The Blazers All-Star drained a 25-foot three-pointer at the 2:18 mark to cut the lead to four. And after a few stops on the defensive end, the Blazers were able to tie the game in the final seconds with Lillard making back-to-back driving lay-ins.
“We made some stops. I think Damian was really aggressive taking the ball to the basket a couple of times, hits a three… To make a come back like that you have to be goo at both ends and we were,” Stotts said.
The Blazers’ floor general tailed 14 points in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Nurkic beamed about his teammates’ qualities postgame, telling Olzendam, “his leadership never changes.”
To be dealing with a flu bug and play 42 minutes in an overtime victory is what you expect from Lillard and for Dame, he knows what to expect out of his team late in games.
“They out played us for most of the second half. In our last timeout it was a little bit over three minutes, I think just a seven-point game, and that’s a lot of time. At that point you’ve just gotta come together as a group and kind of forget about everything that’s happened,” Lillard said.
A TEAM EFFORT
Not only were the Blazers getting stops down the stretch, Portland was also getting scoring from multiple guys. All five Trail Blazers’ starters scored in double-figures.
In true Lillard fashion, he deflected the late quarter heroics to his teammates.
“Moe and Chief did a great job in all their coverages. They switched a lot. They were getting their hands on passes, rebounding the ball, coming up with the ball when we needed it, you know, those possessions and, you know, that was huge for us. We made the plays on both ends that we needed to make to get it done,” Lillard said.
Portland is now 3-1 in overtime games this season as the Blazers improve to 22-16 on the season.
And, let’s not forget-- the Blazers are still undefeated when leading after the third quarter.
Cheers to the start of 2019, Rip City.