Mon, 01 Mar 2021

Blazers in happy place as Thunder set to visit

Field Level Media
25 Jan 2021, 20:40 GMT+10

Damian Lillard is now in full Dame mode, and his family is growing as fast as he knocks down 3-pointers.

The five-time All-Star will look to score at least 35 points for the fifth time in six games when the Portland Trail Blazers host the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday night.

Lillard recorded39 points and eight assists in Sunday's 116-113 victory over the New York Knicks and then revealed afterward that he had been sleeping in a hospital bed since Wednesday.

Lillard was awaiting the birth of twins -- one boy, one girl -- and didn't want to miss the moment. He also has a 3-year-old son and joked that he should be called "Daddy Dame" from now on.

"I went into this time as an experienced parent," Lillard said of Thursday's births. "It was a different feeling. I was really happy, really at peace. I was with my fiance. I've been laying in a hospital bed since Wednesday. I haven't been in my own bed. The feeling is unmatched.

"I've been in a happy place because of it even though it's been draining to be in a hospital all week and then to have to come out here and play."

Lillard didn't look like an exhausted player against the Knicks; he came out fast with 15 first-quarter points.

He finished 11 of 17 from the field and made six 3-pointers to move into 16th place on the all-time list with 1,834. He passed Chauncey Billups (1,830).

Lillard also made all 11 free-throw attempts and has hit 66 in row to surpass his own franchise mark of 64 set in March 2018.

Lillard's stellar play helped Portland build a 25-point, third-quarter lead but New York made a frantic comeback that fell just short.

Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts said that is part of the terrain in the NBA.

"If you watch the games around the league, it happens every night," Stotts said of the big lead being drastically chopped.

"There are teams every night that are up 20 points, 15 points and the lead evaporates in some way. As a coach you don't want it to happen, obviously, but the biggest thing is managing it when it does happen."

While Portland has won six of its past eight games, the Thunder are 0-3 on a five-game road trip that concludes Wednesday against the Phoenix Suns.

Oklahoma City opened the trip by falling to the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday before losing consecutive contests to the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday and Sunday. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 26.5 points and 7.5 assists in the two losses to the Clippers.

One player who stepped up in Sunday's 108-100 loss was veteran George Hill, who scored a season-best 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting. Hill made 3 of 4 of his 3-point attempts, but the rest of the Oklahoma City players were a combined 4 of 31.

"It felt good," Hill said of his individual performance. "Just take advantage of every opportunity I get. Continue to trust myself and try to do the best I can for this team."

Though the Thunder lost for the fifth time in the past six games, there was encouragement afterward as the club trailed by 17 after one quarter before making the Clippers work for the victory in the final stanza.

"I thought we competed from the jump tonight," Oklahoma City coach Mark Daigneault said. "Obviously they're a really good team and outplayed us by eight points this time, but I was really happy with the progress we made coming out of the game on Friday (a 120-106 loss).

"There were some real tangible things we wanted to improve at and I thought we did that tonight for the most part, so it was a net positive day for us."

The Thunder split four matchups with Portland last season and have won six of the past eight meetings.

--Field Level Media

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