Damian Lillard's 50-point, 10-assist effort enabled the Portland Trail Blazers to overcome a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit and defeat the New Orleans Pelicans 125-124 on Tuesday at home in Moda Center.
Pels forward Brandon Ingram, who led New Orleans with 30 points, missed a pair of free throws with his team up 124-121 with 7.2 seconds left. The Pels then intentionally fouled Lillard to prevent a game-tying three-point attempt, and the point guard responded with two free throws.
New Orleans guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker, who shined off the bench with 20 points, then committed a turnover on the Pels' inbounds attempt when the ball bounced off him out of bounds.
The ball found itself back in Lillard's hands. He missed a long two-pointer, but Pels point guard Eric Bledsoe fouled him in the process. Lillard responded with two free throws for the lead.
After the second make, a quick-thinking Lonzo Ball grabbed the ball and heaved it downcourt to Zion Williamson, who grabbed the ball and had a chance for the win despite defenders in his face. The shot hit the backboard before glancing off the rim and falling to the floor, clinching the Blazers' comeback victory.
The Pels shot 52.3 percent from the field and 16-of-33 from three-point range. Williamson pitched in 28 points and eight assists. Ball dropped 11 points and dished a career-high 17 assists.
Lillard got his 50 points on 13-of-20 shooting, including 6-of-13 from deep, and he was a perfect 18-of-18 at the charity stripe. Blazers guard Gary Trent Jr. had 22 points off the bench.
Portland also welcomed back shooting guard CJ McCollum, who missed two months because of a fractured left foot. He had 10 points on 3-of-11 shooting in 26 minutes.
The 23-16 Blazers have won five of their last seven games, while the loss ended the 17-23 Pels' two-game winning streak.
Blazers PG Damian Lillard: 50 points, 10 assists
Blazers G Gary Trent Jr.: 22 points
Blazers SG C.J. McCollum: 10 points, 4 rebounds
Blazers C Enes Kanter: 10 points, 5 rebounds
Pelicans F Brandon Ingram: 30 points, 6 rebounds
Pelicans F Zion Williamson: 28 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds
Pelicans PG Lonzo Ball: 11 points, 17 assists
Pelicans G Nickeil Alexander-Walker: 20 points, 5 rebounds
Lillard's performance against the New Orleans Pelicans is one of the top single-game outings of the season.
He led a 17-point comeback with under six minutes left, with the Blazers closing the game on a 25-7 run. Lillard had a hand in 18 of those points.
He made all 18 of his free throws on a night where he needed to do just that so the Blazers could win by one, with this final shot giving Portland the victory. The rest of his team was also perfect (13-of-13).
He hit six three-pointers, including three in the final quarter, when he scored 20 points. You can catch his entire performance here.
Lillard is now averaging 30.5 points and 8.0 assists per game for a Blazers team that just welcomed back an All-Star guard in McCollum following a two-month absence. Portland is still without big man Jusuf Nurkic, who has been out for two months with a broken right wrist.
And yet the Blazers are 23-16, good enough for a fifth-place tie in the Western Conference. Inching up a few more spots in the West certainly isn't out of the realm of possibility with McCollum back and Lillard playing the best ball of his career.
After the game, the TNT crew posited that Lillard should be in the NBA MVP conversation. It's hard to argue otherwise, especially if Portland ends the second half of the season strong. Just take a look at these stats from Rob Perez, for instance.
Wobian Lillard @WorldWideWob
this is nuts updated after tonight's huge comeback + 50-point show, Damian Lillard leads the league in: Clutch Points Scored (124) Clutch Points Per Game (5.6) Clutch Free Throw % (100%) also, he's: 55.2% from 3 in the clutch 60.7% FG in the clutch in 22 clutch games played
Lillard is clearly in the MVP conversation, but for now, the Blazers are focused on stacking wins. With Lillard playing lights-out and McCollum back in the lineup, Portland is a dangerous team.
The two teams will meet again in Portland on Thursday at 10 p.m. ET.