Trail Blazers

CJ McCollum returns in time to deliver last-second advice to Damian Lillard

Trail Blazers
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Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard put on a miraculous show Tuesday night.

He led his team from what seemed like an improbable come-from-behind victory, finishing with 50 points in the Blazers' 125-124 victory over the Pelicans.

Portland had been down by as many as 17 points with just under six minutes.  

But then Lillard took over.

As he does.

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And as CJ McCollum has witnessed time and time again.  

McCollum made his return to the court for the first time in two months after suffering a left midfoot fracture on Jan. 16 at home against the Atlanta Hawks.

 

An elite performance from Lillard meant he willed the Blazers to their 23rd win of the season.

And it was McCollum who had the last word to Lillard before sealing the victory.

CJ just tapped me on my back, like, ‘go win it, just make sure you go win it.’ And I got to my spot and drew a foul and that was game. 

Damian Lillard said postgame

McCollum says he’s never surprised to see what Lillard can do, especially in crunch time.

With ice running through his veins, as the NBA world has become accustomed to, Lillard drained a pair free throws inside the final 5.2 seconds.

The last pair came with 1.2 seconds left after the Pelicans turned the ball over, which ended up being the final score.

I knew if we got the ball back, that he was going to win it and he did it.

CJ McCollum on Damian Lillard

As for McCollum’s status, he explained how he felt after his first game back, saying “the foot feels good, which I’m happy about. From a movement standpoint -- I felt pretty good.”

The rhythm is coming. It’s not here, but it’s coming slowly, but surely. I was just happy to play basketball after a couple months off.

CJ McCollum said with a smile

It was all smiles after the win as Lillard praised his team’s experience for them to be able to come back so late in the game.

Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts credits the team’s 'desperation' defense in the final minutes. 

It was also all smiles right before Tuesday’s contest with the anticipated return of McCollum.

He played just 26 minutes, finishing with 10 points on 3-of-11 shooting, including 2-of-7 from three as he continues to shake off the rust.

“Kind of what I expected for the first game,” Stotts said. “He got off to a good start, scored eight quick points, looked good. I thought as his minutes progressed, his leg looked a little bit heavier… I thought he played well and I thought it was a good sign.”   

McCollum admits he didn't realize Lillard scored 50 points.  

But again, that doesn’t shock Lillard’s backcourt mate.

 

“I’m not surprised of him because I know how he works, I know his mentality, I know how much the game means to him.”

The relationship between the Blazers backcourt duo has not skipped a beat.