NEW YORK (AP) — Damian Lillard pulled up from deep and then did it again, looking strong in what he says may be his toughest season physically.Maybe he’s feeling good enough to carry the Trail Blazers out of an unwanted spot in the standings.
Lillard had 32 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, and the Trail Blazers beat the Brooklyn Nets 128-109 on Friday night to remain unbeaten halfway through an important road trip.“To have some deep shots go in for him, he had a good rhythm and it’s an understatement. We’re a much better team, we’re a really good team when he’s playing at that level,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said.
Lillard scored 22 points in the second half as the Blazers broke away late in the third quarter to snap the Nets’ four-game winning streak.
Jusuf Nurkic added 23 points and 11 rebounds for the Trail Blazers, who are 3-0 on their trip as they try to fight their way out of seventh place in the Western Conference and avoid having to appear in the play-in tournament.“
Our team is at that point where we’re either going to fall apart or we’re going to dig out, come together and get ourselves right, and I think we’re showing some signs that we’re going in the right direction,” Lillard said.Kyrie Irving had 28 points for the Nets, who rested Kevin Durant after he scored 42 points at Indiana on Thursday.
Brooklyn had its lead over Philadelphia for the East No. 1 seed cut to a half-game ahead of a five-game trip that starts Sunday with the first of a pair of games in Milwaukee. The Nets aren’t home again until the last week of the regular season.
After a five-game skid, the Blazers started their trip with a 133-112 rout at Indiana and a 130-109 victory at Memphis, winning consecutive road games by 20-plus points for the first time in two years.They could have gotten there again, but Harry Giles was called for a technical foul with the Blazers up 20 with 10.2 seconds left.
“You’ve got to credit them. They were the hungry team tonight and they got it done,” Nets forward Jeff Green said.
Leading by one with about 4 1/2 minutes left in the third, Portland opened the first sizeable cushion for either team with an 18-4 run. Lillard hit a pair of 3-pointers from beyond 30 feet in the spurt, including a 34-footer that capped it and gave the Blazers a 94-79 lead.
Portland put it away with another big spurt after leading by eight with just over nine minutes remaining.Nurkic had 16 points in the first half and it should have been 18. His missed dunk in the closing seconds left the Blazers with just a 59-57 lead at the break.