The Portland Trail Blazers kept up their midseason tear through the NBA thanks to their increasingly prolific backcourt duo.
Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum each scored 34 points, and the Blazers beat the Brooklyn Nets 112-104 on Tuesday night for their season-high sixth consecutive victory.
Lillard became the first player to score at least 30 points in five straight games for Portland since Geoff Petrie in the franchise’s inaugural 1970-71 season, and the first NBA player to do so this season. McCollum added six assists and five rebounds and cracked the 30-point mark in back-to-back games for the first time in his career.
“No question they carried us,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “Sixty-eight points from your backcourt, that goes a long way.”
Brook Lopez had 36 points and 10 boards for Brooklyn, which has lost three of four. Joe Johnson had 19 points and eight rebounds, and Donald Sloan scored 14 points.
“We did not play particularly well on the defensive end in the first half,” Nets interim coach Tony Brown said. “As soon as we got engaged and started being aggressive, things started to turn for us.”
The Nets trailed 68-49 early in the third before charging back for an 89-88 lead with 9:21 to play in the game.
“We had a lot more energy (in the second half) and we knuckled down on defense and got some stops,” Lopez said. “We came out a bit relaxed. I don’t know what it was. There really is no excuse to start that way.”
The game was tied before McCollum and Lillard hit consecutive 3-pointers to make it 107-101 with 1:25 left. Lillard sealed the win with four free throws in the last 26.4 seconds.
“We showed some fight,” Lillard said. “We didn’t panic and let the game completely slip away like we’d done in games in the past.”
Mason Plumlee added 13 rebounds and Portland won for the 11th time in 12 games and 15th out of 18 to move into a tie with idle Dallas for the sixth seed in the Western Conference.
“We can’t let our guard down,” Stotts said. “I’m glad we’re making a move.”
The teams traded leads in the fourth until McCollum broke the tie with 1:56 to go, and Lillard followed with another 3. Brooklyn’s only points in the final 2:13 came on Lopez’s three-point play with 74 seconds left, which closed the gap to three.
“I needed to close the game out strong,” McCollum said. “(That was) too close for comfort.”
Portland finished with five free throws in the final minute, four from Lillard and one from Plumlee.
McCollum and Lillard are the first Blazers teammates to go for 30-plus in back-to-back games since Petrie and Sidney Wicks did so in 1973.
“I catch myself watching him sometimes,” Lillard said of McCollum. “The stuff that he can do, how crafty he is with the ball, the tough shots he can knock down — I didn’t feel like I had to keep the ball.”
Lillard continued his march up the Blazers’ career scoring charts, passing Zach Randolph for 14th in points and Nicolas Batum for third on the 3-pointers made list.
Damian Lillard is a man possessed on the basketball court right now. His MVP-caliber play has the Blazers overachieving and in the thick of the playoff race in the Western Conference. Just how hot is he right now? Even shots like this are dropping.