Damian Lillard has quite an act to follow when the Portland Trail Blazers host the Toronto Raptors on Saturday night.
Lillard is fresh off the fourth 60-point outing of his 11-season career and has regained the form that was missing when he was limited to 29 games in his injury-riddled 2021-22 campaign.
Lillard was highly efficient while scoring exactly 60 points against the Utah Jazz during Portland’s 134-124 home victory on Wednesday. He made 21 of 29 field-goal attempts — including 9 of 15 from 3-point range — and was 9 of 10 from the free-throw line.
Lillard fell one point short of his career high while also contributing eight assists, seven rebounds and three steals.
“I wasn’t thinking I’m going to have to get 60, but I knew that I would have to be engaged and in attack mode and be aggressive,” Lillard said afterward. “That was the mentality going into it.
“I knew coming in it’s a really good offensive team, they’ve played really well against us, they’ve been playing well, they’ve been beating a lot of teams, and you know it’s going to be a tough game.”
Lillard, 32, ranks sixth in the NBA in scoring at 30.1 points per game. He has been on a solid roll over the past 10 games, averaging 38 points with four outings of 40 or more, including 50 against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Jan. 12 in addition to the 60-point effort.
“I think any time you score 60 points it’s special, but I think this one I just felt like it came pretty simple,” Lillard said. “I thought I played the game as it should’ve been played.”
The Trail Blazers have averaged 140.5 points while winning their last two games. The explosive stretch follows a period in which Portland dropped 12 of 16 games.
Toronto is 1-1 on a season-long, seven-game road swing. The Raptors defeated the Sacramento Kings 113-95 on Wednesday before falling 129-117 to the Golden State Warriors on Friday.
Fred VanVleet had 28 points and 10 assists against the Warriors while Scottie Barnes scored 24 and Pascal Siakam 21. Siakam was just 8-of-26 shooting despite posting his fourth straight 20-point outings and ninth in 11 games.
“Got to play through a little more contact and finish some of those (shots) off,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said of Siakam’s shooting. … “I think he would say he got hemmed up a couple times, but most of the time he got himself into a pretty good spot with clearance to take a decent shot.”
VanVleet has at least 25 points in five of the past six games and is averaging 28.2 points during that span. He has made 26 of 58 3-point attempts (44.8 percent) during the stretch.
Toronto’s OG Anunoby (left wrist) is expected to sit out Saturday’s game after being injured against the Warriors. He was hurt in a hard fall to the court after Golden State’s JaMychal Green contested his driving shot. The Raptors said X-rays were negative.
Precious Achiuwa played 36 minutes and had 17 points and 11 rebounds for his third double-double in four games.
“I think he’s going to be playing virtual starting minutes whether he’s starting or not,” Nurse said of Achiuwa. “I imagine he will with the OG situation with his wrist. He probably needs to be more involved and more aggressive because he’s making good decisions.”
Portland’s Jusuf Nurkic (calf) and Josh Hart (hamstring) are listed as questionable.
The Raptors recorded a 117-105 victory over the visiting Trail Blazers on Jan. 8 to halt a five-game slide in the series. Lillard scored 34 for Portland and Siakam had 27 for Toronto.
–Field Level Media