PORTLAND (ABC4 Sports) – Damian Lillard put on a show at the Utah Jazz expense Wednesday night.
The former Weber State star scored a season-high 60 points, hitting nine 3-pointers, and the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Jazz, 134-124.
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.
Lillard tied for second-most in the NBA this season. Donovan Mitchell had 71 in an overtime game for Cleveland against Chicago on Jan. 3, and Luka Doncic scored 60 in Dallas’ OT victory over New York on Dec. 27.
The 60 points was one point shy of his career high, which Lillard has hit twice.
“I think any time you score 60 points it’s special, but I think this one I just felt like it came pretty simple,” Lillard said. “I thought I played the game as it should’ve been played. I knew we needed to win so I came out with a mentality to attack and be aggressive, but it wasn’t like I just came out on fire. It wasn’t one of those games.”
Jazz coach Will Hardy was asked what Utah could have done to stop Lillard after double-teaming him for much of the game.
“I guess in theory we could have sent three people at him,” Harvey quipped.
Lillard was three points shy of the most points the Jazz have ever given up in a game. George Gervin put up 63 points on the New Orleans Jazz back in 1978.
Lillard needed just 29 shot attempts and 10 free throw attempts to score 60, putting him in elite company. Just two other players (Karl Malone with 26 in 1990, and James Harden with 24 in 2019) have reached 60 points on fewer shot attempts, but both scored a high percentage of their points at the foul line, taking 23 free throws apiece.
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 tip shot with 5:20 left that got Utah to 115-108.
Grant and Anfernee Simons had back-to-back dunks to put Portland up 121-110 and the Blazers led comfortably the rest of the way.
Lillard made nine 3-pointers, tied for second most ever in a 60-point game behind his own total of 11 in January 2020. He shot 72% overall from the field (21-of-29), sixth best in a 60-point game.
When Lillard came to the free-throw line late in the game, the home crowd stood and chanted “MVP! “MVP!” Lillard missed a jump shot with 29.1 seconds left that would have topped his career best 61.
Lillard has four career games of 60 points or more. He’s reached 61 twice.
Lillard was unaware his 60-point night was historic until he was told about it by media postgame.
“It’s the most efficient 60-point game ever, for real?” Lillard said. “That’s crazy. I didn’t know that. I’m just sitting here thinking I had a shot at the end of the shot clock from half court toward the end that I shot. It probably would have been a little bit better. I missed a free throw. Damn.”
After struggling for much of January, the Blazers were coming off a morale-boosting 147-127 victory over San Antonio on Monday.
He wasn’t even aware he was near his career high until Blazers coach Chauncey Billups let him know after those free throws. Lillard thought he was coming out.
“Next time I came down they double-teamed me and I just rose up for three real quick and then they came down and scored,” Lillard said. “There was still time on the clock, but I wasn’t going to be that thirsty to come back down with that much time in the game just to get a career high.”
The quick trip to Portland was in the middle of two Jazz homestands. They played three in Utah before the game, then return for five games at home, starting Saturday night against Dallas.