Damian Lillard Explodes for Trail Blazers-Record 59 Points in Win vs. Utah Jazz

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistApril 9, 2017

Apr 8, 2017; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) drives against Utah Jazz guard Dante Exum (11) during the first half at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Damian Lillard erupted for a career-high and franchise-record 59 points Saturday night as the Portland Trail Blazers thrashed the Utah Jazz 101-86 at Moda Center. 

All told, Lillard shot 18-of-34 from the field and tied a franchise record with nine threes as he became the 10th different player to drop 50 points in a game this season to extend an NBA record, according to Sports Illustrated's Ben Golliver

And with 59 points, Lillard finished with the third-highest scoring game of the season. Only Devin Booker (70 points against the Boston Celtics) and Klay Thompson (60 points) have had more. 

NBA TV on Twitter provided an accurate summation of how Lillard was feeling as he shredded Utah's vaunted defense down the stretch: 

"I realized what time it was for our team," Lillard said during an on-court interview after the win, according to the Oregonian's Joe Freeman

The scoring explosion marked the third time in Lillard's career that he topped 50 points in a game, and it helped the Blazers move a game-and-a-half clear of the Denver Nuggets in the race for the Western Conference's eighth and final playoff spot.  

Lillard was scorching from the opening tip, and the show he put on in the first quarter was a sight to behold. By the time the first 12 minutes came to a close, Lillard had dropped 26 points on 9-of-14 shooting to tie one of his most prolific franchise milestones, per Blazers PR on Twitter: 

And while Dame went scoreless in the second quarter, he found his groove again in the second half as he repeatedly scorched the Jazz with step-back triples from deep: 

At that point, The Athletic's Sean Highkin noted Lillard has the chops necessary to give the Golden State Warriors a scare in the first round of the playoffs: 

Lillard added six rebounds and five assists to his final line, but most impressive may have been the fact that he became the third player since 1983 to drop at least 59 points without committing a turnover, according to the team's public relations department

Now one step closer to clinching a playoff spot, the Blazers will be watching their League Pass feeds intently Sunday when the Denver Nuggets square off against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Should the Nuggets lose that game, the Blazers will officially book a spot in the postseason. 

Should the Nuggets fend off the Thunder in hostile territory, the Blazers will return to the floor Monday against the San Antonio Spurs with a chance for Lillard to make another statement before the regular season comes to a close. 


For more news, rumors and related stories about Damian Lillard, the Portland Trail Blazers and the NBA, check out the NBA and Trail Blazers streams on Bleacher Report's app.