Years from now, NBA historians are going to look back at the 2015-16 season and wonder why Portland Trail Blazers superstar Damian Lillard wasn't in the All-Star Game. After all, he was drawing MVP chants in the Moda Center in Portland during his team's 112-104 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday.
Lillard led the way with 34 points, four assists and three steals, propelling the Trail Blazers to their sixth straight win and their 11th victory in the last 12 games.
He also made some team history in the process, per Trail Blazers PR:
Damian Lillard is the first Trail Blazer with five straight games of 30+ points since Geoff Petrie during Portland's first season (1970-71).— Trail Blazers PR (@TrailBlazersPR) February 24, 2016
Lillard put his name alongside Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler with his effort:
Damian Lillard is the first Trail Blazer to average at least 25 ppg in his first 50 games of a season since Clyde Drexler in 1991-92.— Trail Blazers PR (@TrailBlazersPR) February 24, 2016
Lillard has taken the league by storm in recent weeks, even helping the Blazers to do the nearly impossible and beat the Golden State Warriors. Here's a look at his record-setting performances over Portland's past five games:
|Memphis Grizzlies||Feb. 8||W, 112-106||33|
|Houston Rockets||Feb. 10||W, 116-103||31|
|Golden State Warriors||Feb. 19||W, 137-105||51|
|Utah Jazz||Feb. 21||W, 115-111||30|
|Brooklyn Nets||Feb. 23||W, 112-104||34|
All of those points gave Lillard another impressive achievement in the aftermath of Tuesday's victory:
Damian Lillard is the only player in the NBA this season to score 30+ points in five consecutive games.— Trail Blazers PR (@TrailBlazersPR) February 24, 2016
The scoring also inspired some humorous spinoffs of recent Vines:
ESPN Stats & Info noted Lillard and teammate C.J. McCollum (who also scored 34 points Tuesday) found themselves among impressive company after the win:
Damian Lillard/C.J. McCollum: 1st starting guard teammates to each score 30 in B2B gms since George Gervin/James Silas in 1980 @EliasSports— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 24, 2016
Jason Quick of CSNNW.com weighed in on the 25-year-old after his latest sizzling outing:
Every night it is something with Lillard. An amazing year ... https://t.co/UJsQnOMzAB— Jason Quick (@jwquick) February 24, 2016
Lillard also drained two three-pointers in the victory over the Nets and climbed some Trail Blazers charts, as the team pointed out:
Lillard wasted little time connecting from deep Tuesday, even drawing a foul on a first-quarter three-pointer:
Lillard is so dangerous in part due to his ability to blow past defenders and finish at the rim when they press up on his outside shooting. He victimized Markel Brown doing just that Tuesday:
Lillard also played the role of clutch shooter in the fourth quarter after the Nets climbed within three points, via NBA TV:
As if that wasn't enough, Lillard even entertained the fans after the whistle, via NBA TV:
The Trail Blazers are rolling thanks to Lillard and McCollum and find themselves in seventh place in the Western Conference playoff picture. If the Blazers' stud backcourt duo can stay this hot, the team may just continue to climb the standings and avoid a potential first-round playoff matchup with the Warriors or San Antonio Spurs.
Heading into Wednesday, Portland was only three games behind the fifth-place Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference standings. Considering Memphis is without superstar Marc Gasol and the sixth-place Dallas Mavericks are 2-5 in their last seven games, Lillard and Co. could get the Trail Blazers all the way to the No. 5 seed in the conference.
Next up for the Trail Blazers is a four-game stretch against the Houston Rockets, Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks. Those teams are a combined 111-115 on the season, and only Indiana (30-26) is more than three games above .500. Lillard has an opportunity to keep his personal and team momentum rolling against beatable opponents as the season's stretch run approaches.
Considering Portland already beat the 50-5 Warriors during Lillard's hot stretch, a serious run up the standings and into the postseason is not out of the question. Lillard may even lay the foundation for an All-Star appearance next season if he keeps this up.
Lillard torched the Nets Tuesday, but he wanted more while discussing his halfcourt shot that didn’t count from the fourth quarter, per Erik Gunderson of the Columbian: “I wish they woulda gave me the and-1.”
CSNNW.com passed along a video of Portland coach Terry Stotts talking about his backcourt’s performance and the victory:
Lillard and McCollum even impressed the opposition, as Lopez said, per Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune: “They have to be among top five, maybe top three backcourts. On a given night, they can be the best.”
Lillard and McCollum will prove that’s the case to NBA fans across the country come playoff time if they continue to play like they did Tuesday.