PORTLAND, Ore. — No offense to the Utah Jazz, but Damian Lillard said scoring 60 points against them was pretty straightforward. Not easy, just simple.
Lillard had a season-high 60 points, hitting nine 3-pointers, and the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Jazz 134-124 on Wednesday night.
Lillard is tied for the second most points in the NBA this season. Donovan Mitchell scored 71 in an overtime game for Cleveland against Chicago on Jan. 3, and Luka Doncic scored 60 in Dallas’ overtime win over New York on Dec. 27.
“I think any time you score 60 points is special, but I think this one, I just felt like it was pretty straightforward,” Lillard said. “I thought I played the game the way it should have been played. I knew we had to win so I came out with a mentality of attacking and being aggressive, but it wasn’t like I came out on fire. This was not one of those games.
Jerami Grant added 19 points to help Portland win its second straight game.
Lauri Markkanen led the Jazz with 24 points. He had a layup followed by a point shot with 5:20 to go that took Utah up 115-108.
Grant and Anfernee Simons had back-to-back dunks to put Portland ahead 121-110 and the Blazers comfortably led the rest of the way.
When Lillard came to the free throw line late in the game, the home crowd stood up and chanted “MVP! “MVP! Lillard hit both free throws to reach 60, but missed a jumper from wide range with 29.1 seconds left that would have topped his career-best 61.
He didn’t even know he was close to his career peak until Blazers coach Chauncey Billups let him know after those free throws. Lillard thought he was dating.
“The next time I went down they doubled me and I just got up for three really quickly and then they went down and scored,” Lillard said. “There was still time on the clock, but I wasn’t going to be that thirsty to come back down with that much time in the game just to hit a career high.”
Lillard has four career games of 60 or more points. He reached 61 twice.
Jazz coach Will Harvey was asked what Utah could have done to stop Lillard after doubling him for much of the game.
“I guess in theory we could have sent three people to him,” Harvey joked.
After struggling for much of January, the Blazers were coming off a 147-127 win over San Antonio on Monday.
Lillard was 21 of 29 from the field, 9 of 15 from 3 and 9 of 10 from the line. He also had eight assists, seven rebounds and three steals.
During the third quarter, Lillard scored 20 straight points at Portland.
“You just have to sit back and enjoy it,” Blazers teammate Nassir Little said of watching Lillard turn 60. “Marvel at its greatness.”
Jazz: The quick trip to Portland was in the middle of two Jazz homestands. They played three games at Utah before the game, then returned for five games at home. … Markkanen has made a 3-pointer in 37 straight games, the most for a 7-footer in the NBA.
Trail Blazers: This was Game 4 of a six-game homestand for the Blazers. … Portland was injured in the first half when starter Josh Hart left with a hamstring injury and did not return. Jusuf Nurkic left the game in the third quarter with left calf pain and did not return. … Lillard moved up to sixth on the league’s all-time 3-point list, passing Vince Carter.
Lillard is one of five NBA players with four games or more than 60 points. Wilt Chamberlain leads the list with 32, followed by Kobe Bryant with six. Lillard, James Harden and Michael Jordan all have four.
“I’m not catching Wilt,” laughed Lillard.
Jazz: Dallas host Saturday night.
Trail Blazers: Host the Raptors on Saturday night.
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