On Feb. 26, Portland Trailblazer Damian Lillard scored 71 points, setting a personal and franchise record, to lead Rip City to a 16 point win.
The outing marks the sixth most points scored in a single game in NBA history, tying David Robinson, Elgin Baylor and Donovan Mitchell — the last of which also came this season. He additionally had six points and six rebounds, showing his selflessness despite offensive takeover.
The performance came against The Houston Rockets, whose presence in the Western Conference made the resulting win more impactful. Still, the Blazers currently sit at 12th in the West, three spots above the Rockets who have the worst record in the league. At the moment, they share a win/loss total with the New Orleans Pelicans and Oklahoma City Thunder at 10th and 11th respectively.
Lillard is the only player to score 70 points in less than 40 minutes, and the only one to do so over the age of 30. The Trail Blazer had a true shooting percentage of 80.4%, the highest of any 70 point game. Additionally, he did so with the fewest free throw attempts of any player to hit that mark. Thirty-nine of his points came from three point shots, he is the only player to have a 70 point game with more than 10 three’s, and he scored 13.
Lillard, who has made his living behind the arc, currently ranks 6th on the all time three point shots made list, with 2366. Only two players above him are active. The NBA’s all time three point leader, Steph Curry has been a rival of Lillards who has largely overshadowed him. Both are primarily known for the outside shot, play on the West Coast, have played for a single NBA team despite 10 or more seasons in the league and both play point guard. Additionally, Lillard is from Oakland, where Curry’s Golden State Warriors’ stadium used to reside.
Curry has largely eclipsed Lillard, holding two MVP trophies, two scoring championships and four rings. The 71 point outing marks Lillard fighting back against the narrative, besting Curry’s career-high 62.
Lillard’s time in Portland has been marked with very little overall success. The team has made it to the conference finals once during Lillard’s tenure, in 2019, where they were swept by the Golden State Warriors.
That is not to say Lillard’s career has been unimpressive. The Blazers superstar is a seven time all-star, six time all-NBA and the 2012-13 Rookie of the Year. However, he has been limited in terms of team success.
Lillard has only played with one other all-star during his career, LaMarcus Aldridge, who left in 2015 through free agency to join the San Antonio Spurs. This season looked promising with young guard Anfernee Simons and new acquisition Jerami Grant assisting Lillard, but they remain well out of the playoffs and barely out of the play-in.
Lillard has been criticized and commended by fans and the media for the loyalty that has kept him in Portland. In ten seasons, he has never requested a trade despite an organization that has failed to generate any team success. The 71 point outing shows just how talented Lillard is, and remains either a sad reminder to how successful he would have been elsewhere or a testament to his will to win with Portland.