PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Damian Lillard set franchise and career highs with 71 points — tied for the most in the NBA this season — and 13 3-pointers and the Portland Trail Blazers snapped a two-game skid with a 131-114 victory over the Houston Rockets on Sunday night.
Lillard tied Cleveland’s Donovan Mitchell for the most points in a game this season after Mitchell also scored 71 in a win over Chicago on Jan. 2. Lillard broke his own franchise mark of 61 points, which he’d done twice, on a 3-pointer with 4:42 left that also topped his career record for 3s in a game with 11.
In the final minutes, the crowd at the Moda Center was on its feet, phones recording the moment, while chanting “MVP! MVP!”
Lillard left the game with 44 seconds left, tied with Mitchell, Elgin Baylor (1960) and David Robinson (1994) for the eighth-most points scored in a game in NBA history. Wilt Chamberlain owns the league record with 100 for Philadelphia against New York on March 2, 1962, at Hershey, Pennsylvania.
Lillard had 41 points and eight 3-pointers by halftime. It was a career high in a half for Lillard and the most points in a half for any player in the league this season. He had 50 by the start of the fourth quarter.
Jerami Grant added 13 points for the Blazers, who led by as many as 23. Portland is part of a cluster of eight Western Conference just four wins apart that are vying for playoff spots.
Alperen Sengun had 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Rockets, sitting in last place in the Western Conference with just 13 overall wins and nine straight losses.
Houston trailed 102-88 heading into the final quarter, but scored the first six points of the period to close the gap to 102-94. Grant’s 3-pointer for Portland extended the margin to 108-98.
Lillard’s 3, his 11th of the night to tie his career high, made it 113-103 with 6:43 left. He added a driving layup and a free throw. Houston could not catch up.
Lillard started after resting for Thursday night’s 133-116 loss to Sacramento. He participated in the NBA All-Star Game and won the 3-point contest the previous weekend.
But Portland remained without center Jusuf Nurkic (left calf) and guard Anfernee Simons (right ankle).
The Blazers had a 31-30 lead after one quarter, led by Lillard’s 16. Portland extended the lead to 50-39 after Lillard went on a personal 9-2 run against the Rockets, capped by a 3-pointer from 35 feet out.
The Blazers led 73-58 at the break with Lillard the 10th player since the 1996-97 season with 40-plus points in a half.
Lillard has 15 games with 50 or more points, sixth-most in NBA history.
Guards Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr. did not play, although Rockets coach Stephen Silas said both should be available for the team’s short upcoming homestand. Green missed his second game with a strained left groin. Porter has been out 19 games because of a left foot contusion.
Rockets: It was the third and final meeting between the teams this season. The Blazers won the previous two. Last season, the series ended 2-2. … Jae’Sean Tate had four fouls in the first half, but finished with 17 points.
Trail Blazers: Following reports that Lillard was rallying his teammates for the final 23 games of the season, Blazers coach Chauncey Billups was asked how he’s motivating his team for the stretch run. “What I’m mostly always talking about is `Here’s where we are. Here’s how we got there. This is how we’ve got to climb out of it,’” Billups said.
Rockets: Return home to face the Denver Nugget on Tuesday.
Trail Blazers: Visit the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday.
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