Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard scored 25 points in the third quarter of a win over the Houston Rockets on Sunday in Portland, Ore. Photo by Etienne Laurent/EPA-EFE
Feb. 27 (UPI) -- Damian Lillard awed fans with a career-high 71 points to lead the Portland Trail Blazers to a victory over the Houston Rockets. Lillard also became the first NBA player to score 70 points in under 40 minutes.
The All-NBA guard made 13 3-pointers, 14 free throws and 22 shots overall in 39 minutes of the 131-114 triumph Sunday at Moda Center in Portland, Ore.
"I wasn't like 'I'm going to get 70 tonight,'" Lillard told reporters. "I was playing to keep the lead, instead of playing to score a bunch of points."
Lillard matched Cleveland Cavaliers guard Donovan Mitchell for the most points in a game this season. Mitchell scored 71 in 50 minutes in January against the Chicago Bulls. Lillard and Mitchell are tied with Elgin Baylor and David Robinson for the eighth-most points in a single game in NBA history.
Wilt Chamberlain occupies five of the Top 7 spots. His 100 points for the Philadelphia Warriors in a 1962 win over the New York Knicks remain the most ever scored in a single game.
Lillard scored 61 points twice in 2020. He also scored 60 points on two other occasions. His five games with at least 60 points trail only Chamberlain (61) and Kobe Bryan (32).
"I enjoy those moments in the game, when I'm just going after people and I'm in attack mode," Lillard said. "I think any hooper enjoys those moments."
Lillard scored his first points of the night with a layup about 1:49 into the first quarter. He went on to total 16 points over the first 12 minutes.
He then erupted for 25 points in under nine minutes in the second quarter, including five 3-pointers. He also scored the Blazers' final 13 points of the quarter. They led 73-58 at halftime.
Lillard added another nine points in the third. He totaled 21 of the Blazers' 29 fourth-quarter points, including 17 of their final 20 points.
''It really, really was a masterful performance,'' Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said at his news conference. ''It was a piece of art. That was incredible.''
Lillard is averaging a career-high 32.3 points per game this season. Only Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid (33.1) and Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic (33.1) are averaging more points this season than Lillard.
The Blazers (29-31) will face the Golden State Warriors (31-30) at 10 p.m. EST Tuesday at Chase Center in San Francisco.