Damian Lillard exploded for 61 points on Tuesday as the Portland Trail Blazers roared towards a place in the NBA playoffs with a thrilling 134-131 win over the Dallas Mavericks.
Lillard — who had scored 51 points in a victory against the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday — once again led from the front for Portland, who are now within touching distance of a postseason berth.
The Blazers talisman nailed a clutch three-pointer in the closing stages to level the score at 130-130 and then provided the assist that saw Portland take a 132-130 lead with just under a minute remaining.
The win vaulted Portland above the Memphis Grizzlies into the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference standings with 34 wins and 39 defeats.
The eighth- and ninth-placed teams in the West will advance to an elimination game this weekend to determine who claims the final postseason berth from the conference.
Yesterday’s combination of results elsewhere left everything to play for heading into the final round of seeding games, with Portland, Memphis, the Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs still mathematically in with a chance of claiming eighth or ninth place.
Portland, however, remain in the driving seat. A win against the Brooklyn Nets tomorrow will assure them of a place in the play-in game.
Lillard’s 61-point effort made him only the second player in NBA history to score 60 points or more in three games during a single season, putting him alongside Wilt Chamberlain.
“I’m happy to be in that kind of company, and I’m happy that two of those three (60-point games) came in a winning effort,” Lillard said.
Elsewhere, Phoenix’s unbeaten streak inside the Orlando “bubble” stretched to seven games after yet another high-scoring display from Devin Booker in a victory over Philadelphia.
Booker scored 35 points in a 130-117 win over a severely depleted Sixers side missing Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.
It was Booker’s fifth 30-point scoring display in seven games since the NBA restarted its season in Orlando.*AFP