(The Sports Xchange) - Watching Damian Lillard get 20 or 30 points has become routine for the Portland Trail Blazers.
So has winning.
Lillard scored 30 points and the surging Trail Blazers continued rolling with a 104-85 victory over the New York Knicks Tuesday night.
“It seems natural,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “I don’t think anybody is surprised.”
Lillard posted his 19th game with 30 points and only Golden State’s Stephen Curry, Houston’s James Harden and Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins have more games with at least 30 this season. He also reached 30 points for the eighth time in his last nine games by hitting eight of 18 shots and making 10 free throws, extending his streak to 48.
“He’s playing at a really elite level, efficient, drawing contract when he gets to the rim, getting to the free-throw line, hitting tough shots and making players around him better,” Portland guard CJ McCollum said. “So this is one of the best runs I’ve seen him on, 30-point games, efficiently doing it against quality competition. So I’d say this is some of the best basketball I’ve seen.”
Most of Lillard’s production occurred during the first half, including during one quick stretch late in the first half when Portland took an eight-point lead. He had 14 of his 24 points in the final four-plus minutes of the half, including 11 straight as the Trail Blazers took the lead for good.
“For me I’ve been here all four years and I’ve seen it with his work pre-game, pre-practice, during practice, late night,” Portland forward Meyers Leonard said. “He’s a humble guy and he gets his work in. That’s why I know and I’m not surprised by anything he’s doing.”
The latest showing by Lillard helped the Trail Blazers win for the 10th time in 12 games, 18th time in their last 22 games and sixth straight road game.
“It is impressive and I think it impressive for any team,” Lillard said. “To go out on the road and to win on someone else’s floor is tough. Anything can go wrong on the road. We have grown so much. Over the last month or so we have really committed ourselves to every little thing that will allow us to win games. We have been over dedicated to these things and that is why we are winning games.
After Lillard attacked the Knicks defense, it was McCollum’s turn in the third. McCollum scored 13 of his 25 points in the third quarter and made three key plays late in the quarter to help Portland take an 85-72 lead into the fourth.
“Those two guys, Lillard and McCollum are very dangerous shooters so the bigs had to be up,” Knicks rookie forward Kristaps Porzingis said. “They were able to move us around. They were playing at a very good level.”
The big nights by Portland’s guards continued the Knicks’ latest downward spiral. Forward Carmelo Anthony scored 23 points but it was not enough as New York lost for the 15th time in 18 games.
Guard Arron Afflalo returned from a sore left knee and added 13 points and Porzingis finished with 11 on a night when the Knicks shot 37.5 percent, misfired on 15 of 21 3-pointers and missed nine straight shots in a span of six minutes bridging the third and fourth quarters.
New York’s shooting drought turned a 78-72 deficit with 1:42 left in the third into a 90-74 hole. While the Knicks were missing, fans entertained themselves by booing loudly and chanting for guard Jimmer Fredette, and during a timeout, Anthony got into an exchange with a heckler.
During the exchange Anthony said, “The Knicks (stink) and I’m never coming back to another game. Anthony replied by pointing at owner Jim Dolan and said: “He’s the owner, ask him for your money back.”
“Players have to be able to play under hostile situations,” New York interim coach Kurt Rambis said. “They have to expect that if they are not playing at a high level that there will be some criticism.”
Fredette checked in with 3:13 remaining but on the next possession Lillard reached 30 points with a 3-pointer.