A 137-105 win over the defending-champion Golden State Warriors would have been enough to make Damian Lillard's night a success, but the Portland Trail Blazers All-Star snub reminded the rest of the Western Conference he's a force to be reckoned with Friday night at Moda Center.
In the dominant outing, Lillard dropped a career-high 51 points on 18-of-28 shooting from the field, including 9-of-12 from three.
Lillard also posted seven assists and six steals, making him the first player since 1983 to tally at least 50 points, seven dimes and six steals in game, according to Basketball-Reference.com. Overall, the Portland point guard joined Stephen Curry, Jimmy Butler, DeMarcus Cousins, James Harden and Kemba Walker as the only players to score 50 points in a game this season.
CBS Sports' Matt Moore provided a breakdown of Lillard's night in shot-chart form:
DAME GOD pic.twitter.com/E9lFVKHoKQ— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) February 20, 2016
According to ESPN Stats & Info, Lillard joined some rarefied franchise air thanks to his explosive scoring prowess:
Damian Lillard: career-high 51 points, first 50-point game by Trail Blazers since Andre Miller had 52 at Mavericks in 2010— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 20, 2016
Sports Illustrated's Ben Golliver put Lillard's outrageous efforts over the past four seasons in perspective by contrasting them with those compiled by longtime Portland staples:
Damian Lillard now has more 40+ point games as a Blazer (5) than Brandon Roy (4) and LaMarcus Aldridge (3)...— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) February 20, 2016
The Blazers' official Twitter account broke down exactly where Lillard sits on the franchise's single-game scoring leaderboard:
With the result in hand, Jeopardy! Sports on Twitter noted the two-time All-Star justified his spot on Western Conference All-Star teams for years to come:
Elsewhere, ESPN's Marc Stein indicated Lillard's performance could strengthen his case for one of the coveted roster spots on Team USA for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro:
Dame wants to go to Rio— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 20, 2016
Lillard has been balling out of his mind during the Blazers' current four-game winning streak, and Friday's performance served as evidence that the fourth-year floor general deserves some more recognition for his efforts.
Although the 2015-16 season has largely been defined by the Warriors' quest to win an NBA-record 73 games while Stephen Curry has set the world on fire, Lillard has more than held his own. Portland is now a game over .500 and nestled into the seventh seed in the Western Conference, and Lillard deserves all the credit in the world for carrying it there.
The Blazers have played the role of overachiever all season long, and there's no reason that should change so long as Lillard is stuffing stat sheets.
NBA TV captured video of Lillard's postgame interview:
Damian Lillard's postgame interview after posting a career-high night. https://t.co/WoA6UQvb4m— NBA TV (@NBATV) February 20, 2016
"He got into a zone twice," Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said, per the Oregonian's Joe Freeman. "In the end, it was just ridiculous."
Golden State's boss went so far as to compare Lillard to the league's reigning MVP.
"He was phenomenal," Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said, according to ESPN.com's Ethan Strauss. "He was great. Looked like Steph Curry out there."
"Their backcourt is like our backcourt," Kerr added, according to the Columbian's Erik Gundersen. "They can just explode."
"He can go for 50 every other game if he really wanted to," Blazers forward Ed Davis said, per Freeman.