Damian Lillard delivered a 50-point performance and led a remarkable fourth quarter comeback as the Portland Trail Blazers defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 125-124 on Tuesday.
Lillard drained six three pointers and made 13-of-20 from the field with six rebounds and 10 assists to give the Blazers an improbable victory at Portland’s Moda Center Arena.
The Pelicans looked to be cruising to victory after surging into a 17-point lead with just over six minutes remaining, up 115-98 thanks to big performances from Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson.
But Lillard then seized control of the contest down the stretch, rattling off 15 points in a 25-7 run for Portland including two ice-cool free throws with 1.2 seconds remaining to seal the Blazers comeback.
“In the huddles we just kept telling each other that we were the more experienced team, and these are the kind of games we’re capable of winning,” Lillard said afterwards.
“We just stayed the course and showed a lot of resilience. When it seemed it was getting worse, I felt our communication and our trust in each other just kept building.”
Lillard’s masterpiece leaves the Blazers in sixth place in the Western Conference standings.
The Portland talisman was backed with 22 points from Gary Trent Jr and 10 apiece from Derrick Jones Sr, Enes Kanter and C.J. McCollum.
The Pelicans scoring was led by Ingram (30 points) and Williamson (28 points).
Elsewhere Tuesday, Donovan Mitchell scored 20 points as the Utah Jazz bounced back from a run of disappointing recent outings with a battling 117-109 road victory over the Boston Celtics.
Utah arrived at Boston’s TD Garden still smarting from a 12-point loss to the Golden State Warriors on Sunday, a fourth defeat in six games for the Western Conference leaders.
However after a sluggish start on Tuesday, which saw the Celtics race into an 11-point lead midway through the first quarter, normal service resumed as Utah asserted themselves late on.
A 40-point fourth quarter wrapped up a morale-boosting victory which saw the Jazz improve to 29-10 at the top of the Western Conference.
While Mitchell led the scoring for Utah, Jordan Clarkson provided an invaluable stint off the bench with 20 points — including five three-pointers — in just over 30 minutes on court.
Clarkson said Utah had been determined to regroup after Sunday’s defeat to the Warriors.
“This is our last big road trip, and after losing that one to the Warriors we just wanted to come back and get something tonight,” Clarkson said. “We’re just trying to string these wins together.
“We know we can handle our business at home, but on the road we’ve got to take everything into account, do all the small things well, and that’s going to help us win.”
Point guard Mike Conley had 17 points and French international Rudy Gobert added 16 points with 12 rebounds for Utah.
Jayson Tatum led the Boston scoring with 29 points while Jaylen Brown added 28 as the Celtics fell to 20-19 to remain in sixth place in the Eastern Conference.
According to Forbes, James is expected to make $95.4m in salary and endorsements in 2021, with $31.4m of that from his Lakers contract. He was supposed to make $39.2m this season, but players’ salaries are being reduced as the NBA works through the COVID-19 pandemic.