Lillard adds to historic run with 51-point night

PORTLAND — Portland Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard continued his historic streak of dominant play with his third 50-point performance in his past six games Saturday as the Blazers defeated the visiting Utah Jazz 124-107 to win their fourth consecutive game.

According to Elias Sports Bureau research, Lillard is the first player in NBA history to average better than 45 points and 10 assists over a six-game span. He has gone for at least 47 points in five of the six games, and had his first career triple-double (36 points, 11 assists, 10 rebounds) in the other one.

“I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything like this,” said teammate Carmelo Anthony. “We’ve seen great basketball, we’ve seen guys score the basketball in different fashions, but what he’s doing, we haven’t seen that in a long time.

“I’m just happy to be a part of it, be a fan of it.”

Lillard’s streak, which started with a career-high and franchise-record 61 points on Jan. 20 against the Golden State Warriors, has also been record-setting beyond the arc. With nine more 3-pointers on Saturday, his total of 49 surpassed Stephen Curry (46 in January 2019) for the most in NBA history over a six-game span.

While most of the attention has gone to Lillard’s scoring — his 293 points over the last six games are tied with Kobe Bryant (in March 2007) for second-most over such a span behind a pair of overlapping streaks by James Harden last January — his playmaking has also been crucial to Portland’s success as opponents send traps and double-teams Lillard’s direction to try to take the ball out of his hands.

“Teams are trying to get more aggressive and make it harder for me,” he said. “I’m just making the plays that I see. When I see them being aggressive, I’m not backing out. I’m going to continue being aggressive against it instead of just giving in to it. Cause a reaction — pick out the help-side defenders and guys that are pulling over and trying to crowd the paint. Just moving the ball to where the help is coming from. Guys are making shots and making the right plays. It’s pretty simple.”

Half of Lillard’s 12 assists Saturday — against just one turnover — went to center Hassan Whiteside, who had 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting and 21 rebounds while battling two-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert. By virtue of setting up four 3-pointers, Lillard created 28 points via assists to go with the 51 he scored.

All four of the Blazers’ wins during their current streak have come against opponents with above-.500 records, nearly matching their previous total of five such wins this season. As a result, Portland has moved into a tie with the San Antonio Spurs for ninth in the Western Conference, a game and a half back of the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth and final playoff spot.

“It’s a good feeling,” said Lillard. “We’re coming together. I think that’s the best way to describe it. Getting healthier, starting to figure out what works for us. Trevor [Ariza] has made a huge difference for our team on both ends.

“We’ve been able to just keep working, keep our heads down, and I think it’s just starting to show. We’ve been able to make it come together and keep doing it over and over against good teams.”

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