PORTLAND — Scoring 60 points for the fourth time in his career during Wednesday’s 134-124 win over the Utah Jazz, Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard made history with his efficiency.
It took Lillard just 29 shot attempts and 10 free throw attempts to make 60, putting him in elite company. Only 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 made a high percentage of their points at the free throw line, with 23 free throws. each.
Meanwhile, only one player to score 60 (Rick Barry in 1974, with five) has done so with fewer than 10 free-throw attempts. Because of those limited opportunities, Lillard posted the highest true shooting percentage, a measure of combined efficiency on shot attempts and free throws, in a 60-point game (.898).
“That was awesome, man,” Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said. “You don’t get to see that very often, to be that efficient. For a guy to put up 60 points and only 10 free throws and make nine of them, you’re thinking this guy has an absurd amount of 3-pointers.” It was just amazing how efficient it was.”
In fact, Lillard made nine 3-pointers, tied for second 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.
Since he normally doesn’t check his phone until he leaves the arena, Lillard didn’t know his 60-point night was historic until he was told by the media after the game.
“It’s the most efficient 60 point game ever, really?” 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 midcourt towards the end that I shot. I probably would have been a little better. I missed a free throw. Damn”.
The early stages of the game offered little indication that Lillard would enter the record books. He had just nine points in the first quarter before heating up. Lillard scored 17 points in the second quarter and was at 30 in the game when he exploded late in the third quarter.
Starting with a layup at the 6:42 mark of the third, Lillard scored Portland’s last 20 points of the period, shooting 7-for-9 from the field in that span with three 3-pointers. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, he was the third player this season to score 20 consecutive points for his team, as well as the second to reach 50 points in three quarters. (The Phoenix Suns’ Devin Booker was the other.)
Surprisingly, Billups had to be talked into keeping Lillard in the game during that stretch.
“I thought he was tired at the end of the third and he was really hot,” Billups said. “I got to timeout and I said, ‘How do you feel? I really wanted to get you out here for the last two minutes.’ GP (Gary Payton II) and everyone was like, ‘No, let it go!’ I said man this could be a good game in the end. I don’t want him to get tired because he’s 45, 50. He said, ‘I’m fine, I’m fine.’ I have to trust the guys in those moments.”
Despite Lillard’s heroics, the Jazz managed to stay within striking distance, allowing Lillard to get back in the game and close in on his career-high 62 points. He reached 60 for the fourth time in his career on a pair of free throws with 1:37 remaining, but did not attempt a shot on the Blazers’ next two possessions. It was then that Billups reminded him of what was at stake.
“That’s the only reason I kept him in the game,” Billups said. “I would have taken him out. I told him that when I stopped him, I said, ‘Bro, what are you doing?’ We’re making the same play. I’m trying to get you to your career high. He looked at me and said, ‘Okay, I’ll get it.’ Bro, I would have taken you out and given you the position you deserved. That just speaks of who It’s him. I wasn’t even thinking about it.”
On Portland’s next trip, Lillard hit a deep 3 before Utah could double it, but missed. With mere seconds left on the clock when the Blazers regained possession, Lillard gave up the chase.
“There was still time on the clock, but I wasn’t going to get thirsty enough to go back down with so much time left in the game just to get my career best,” he explained. “I didn’t feel like that was the right thing to do, so that’s how it ended.”
Lillard tied for the second most points in the NBA this season. Donovan Mitchell scored 71 in an overtime game for Cleveland against Chicago on January 3, and Luka Doncic scored 60 in Dallas’ extra-time win over New York on December 27.
As the fifth player in NBA history to score 60 points at least four times, joining a group that includes Wilt Chamberlain (32), Kobe Bryant (6), James Harden and Michael Jordan (4 each), Lillard is in the rare position. to be able to compare such performances. For him, Wednesday’s game stood out for its simplicity.
“It was pretty simple,” he said. “I don’t want to say it was easy because they had some big bodies and some long defenders, but I think I usually get into a rhythm where I just go without making those simple plays, that teams start coming.” after me before
“I was kicking it forward, I was swinging it, so I didn’t feel like I was being chased all the way. That’s why it seemed the simplest of all.”
Although Lillard is now the third-oldest player to score 60 points at age 32, according to ESPN Stats & Information, he has a chance to keep adding to his total. He was already impressed by the odd company he joined on Wednesday.
“I won’t catch Wilt,” said Lillard. “That’s out. Dang, that’s great.”