Coming into their Friday night competition against the Charlotte Hornets, the Trail Blazers had lost each of their seven games in December.
This downfall came amid much turmoil within the franchise’s business and management negotiations, but superstar Damian Lillard seemed to have had enough.
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After looking annoying before game, the six-time All-Star delivered a classic performance in a comfortable 125-116 home win. Lillard started the attack early, scoring or assisting on 21 of the team’s 41 first-quarter points. So helping the Trail Blazers jump to a 20-point lead early.
No three are too deep for Dame when she’s in the zone.
He’s 17 after 1Q 🥵
Look here: https://t.co/wVIrg2Swvb pic.twitter.com/jVNR0vex1U
– NBA (@NBA) December 18, 2023
Lillard finished the game with a season-high 43 points in what was easily his best game of the season. He scored from across the court with the remarkable efficiency we normally associate with his game.
The 40-point game is the 40th of Lillard’s career, making him the Player number 25 to reach that plateau. Of the 25, Lillard is only the 10th to record all those 40-point games with a single franchise.
Here’s a look at his shooting chart that includes 6 of 11 from long range and 13 of 14 almost perfect from the free throw line.
You know Lillard is feeling it when he rises for a one-handed dunk.
Every time Dame dives an angel gets her wings pic.twitter.com/rwfaVkPnnk
– Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) December 18, 2023
Although the numbers in this game are as expected from Lillard, the six-time All-NBA point guard has been a shell of himself this season. Whether it’s the new ball, the refocused umpiring, or his nagging midsection, Lillard’s numbers up to this point have been indicative of a big knockdown.
Playing in 23 of the team’s 29 games before the Hornets meeting, Lillard was averaging 22.0 points on split shooting of 38.4 percent from the field and 30.5 percent from 3-point territory. While the number of touchdowns is the lowest since 2014-15, the efficiency numbers are the lowest of his career.
For a player who has averaged 27.2 points in the past six seasons, this 43-point performance is only his sixth game scoring 27 or more this season.
While the Trail Blazers will still miss CJ McCollum, who is indefinitely with a collapsed right lung, this game could be a sign of things to come regarding Lillard getting back into shape.