Damian Lillard became the eighth player in NBA history to top 70 points in a single game on Sunday when he dropped 71 in a 131-114 victory over the Houston Rockets. The performance is the latest in a string of gems from the Blazers guard. He entered Sunday's game averaging 37.6 points in his past 18 games. Now, that total is even higher. Lillard began the stretch by scoring 50 points in a loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and he reached 60 in a win over the Utah Jazz late in January. With 71, he set a new career-high in points while lifting the Blazers to a critical win over the Rockets.
At 28-31, the Blazers entered Sunday's game not only below .500, but out of the play-in picture. With the win, they gained critical ground on a night in which rivals Minnesota and Oklahoma City lost. They now sit in 11th place in the Western Conference, but only three games behind the No. 4 seed Phoenix Suns.
Lillard had a few chances to push his total even higher in the closing minutes, but with little energy left, waived off looks from his teammates in his final seconds on the floor due to exhaustion. He exited the game with 44.1 seconds remaining to a standing ovation from his fans in Portland.
The game was Lillard's first after the All-Star break. He was ruled out of Thursday's game against the Sacramento Kings with a rest designation, which caused a bit of confusion considering it had been nine days since his last game. The decision to sit Lillard out was due to a travel delay. A snowstorm in Portland kept the Blazers on the tarmac for seven hours Wednesday before they ultimately went home and traveled to Sacramento on Thursday. Without Lillard, the Blazers lost to the Kings by 17 points. In the end, though, it'd be hard to complain about the results. Lillard used his rest night as a launching pad for one of the greatest individual performances in NBA history. But how great was it? Let's take a look at Lillard's performance by the numbers:
Lillard is the only player in NBA history to score 70 points and make at least 10 3-pointers in a single game. He was already the only player in NBA history to score 60 points and make at least 10 3's.
Four players in NBA history have scored 60 or more points in multiple games within a single season. Those players are Lillard, James Harden, Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. Here's the catch: Only Lillard (2022-23, 2019-20) and Bryant (2005-06, 2006-07) achieved that feat twice.
Only three players in NBA history have ever had separate games with at least 50, 60 and 70 points in a single season. Those players are Wilt Chamberlain, Kobe Bryant and, now, Damian Lillard
Lillard now has the six highest-scoring individual games in Blazers history. That includes tonight's 71, two 61-point games, two 60-point games and one 59-point performance. The non-Lillard Blazers single-game scoring record is 54, set by Damon Stoudamire in 2005.
That is the number of players in NBA history that have scored 70 points in a game. Wilt Chamberlain did it six times, including his NBA record 100-point performance. Kobe Bryant is in second place on the single-game scoring leaderboard with an 81-point masterpiece in 2006. David Thompson, David Robinson, Elgin Baylor, Devin Booker and Donovan Mitchell have all also scored at least 70. Mitchell's 71-point performance came this season, but he needed overtime to get there. Lillard got to 71 in regulation.
That is how many 3-pointers Lillard made in Sunday's win. He came one shy of Klay Thompson's NBA record of 14 3-pointers. Lillard attempted a record-tying 3-pointer with 1:14 remaining in the fourth quarter, but missed. When his teammates tried to get him to take another chance on his final possession of the game, he seemingly declined out of exhaustion.
Lillard, now 32 years old, is the oldest player ever to score 70 points in an NBA game. David Robinson, who was 28 at the time, had previously held this record, making Lillard the first player in his 30s ever to score 70 points in a game.
That is how many minutes Lillard played against Houston on Sunday. As such, he set the new NBA record for most points in under 40 minutes of play in a single game. The prior record, set by George Gervin and Jerry West, was 63.
By true shooting percentage, Lillard just had the most efficient game with at least 71 total points in NBA history. He shot 22-of-38 from the field, 13-of-22 from 3-point range and 14-of-14 from the free-throw line for a true shooting percentage of 80.4 percent. The previous record in a 71-point game was 78.9 percent.
Many of Lillard's 3-pointers on the night came from well behind the line, including a stunning shot from the logo late in the first half. All told, Lillard made 420 feet worth of shots on Sunday, which made him the first player to record 400 feet worth of shots since the league started tracking shot distance in 1996.
In his 71-point performance last night versus Houston, Damian Lillard became the 1st player to make at least 400 feet worth of shots in a single game*— Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) February 27, 2023
He made 420 feet worth of field goals.
*In the shot location era, since 1996-97 pic.twitter.com/DaTxMkbb3Q
Lillard has now scored 748 points in his past 19 games. That takes his average across that stretch to 39.37 points per game. It is one of the most remarkable stretches in recent NBA history, and yet, his Blazers are only 10-9 in those games. The Blazers acted as sellers at the trade deadline, giving away important role players like Josh Hart and Gary Payton II. Portland is doing everything in its power to fall out of the play-in race, but Lillard simply won't let them. If the Blazers make the postseason, it will be because of what Lillard is doing right here, right now.