Longtime rivals Damian Lillard and Klay Thompson will try to bring their “A” games to a showdown Tuesday night when the Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors hook up in San Francisco.
Lillard erupted for a career-high 71 points -- 10 more than in any previous game -- on Sunday night in a 131-114 home win over the Houston Rockets.
The Oakland native was remarkably accurate from every distance on the court, going 22-for-38 overall, 13-for-22 on 3-point attempts and 14-for-14 from the free-throw line.
The 13 threes were a career best for Lillard and came within one of the NBA record set by Thompson in Chicago in 2018.
Thompson also took advantage of a visit from the Rockets to approach the record last week, going 12-for-17 on 3-point attempts in a 42-point night on Friday.
Seeing the need to pump up his offensive game with Stephen Curry and Andrew Wiggins out of the lineup, Thompson followed up Sunday with six more 3-pointers and 32 points in a 109-104 home triumph over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“He’s a Hall of Famer,” first-year Warriors teammate Donte DiVincenzo said after the Sunday win. “What he’s doing is not out of the ordinary. He’s been having a helluva career. Klay Thompson is still Klay Thompson at the end of the day. That rim is this big at all times.”
With each team winning Sunday, they remained separated by one loss in the tight Western Conference standings. The Warriors actually helped the Trail Blazers in that they handed Minnesota its 32nd of the season on Sunday, one more than Portland’s total.
Golden State coach Steve Kerr was more concerned about his team’s standing -- the Warriors entered the game tied with Minnesota -- after a victory in which the Warriors trailed by as many as 14 points.
“That was a team win,” he said after Golden State prevailed even though Draymond Green also was missing because of a bruised right knee. “Everybody came in there and competed and played well. Just an enormous win. They’re all big, but I liked this one for the grit we had to show to get it done.”
Green might return on Tuesday. He had an MRI exam on Monday and was able to practice after it showed no damage.
Portland snapped a two-game losing streak with the triumph over Houston. The Trail Blazers have gone just 10-12 in a stretch in which Lillard has averaged 38.7 points, going for 30 or more points 17 times.
He had 60 points last month in a home game against the Utah Jazz, which at the time was just one off his career high of 61, set on Jan. 20, 2020, against the Warriors.
Lillard has scored 30 or more in four of his last five visits to the San Francisco Bay Area, including 34 in a 118-112 loss on Dec. 30. However, he has never been coming off a 71-point game before.
“I just thought it was a piece of art because he kept them off-balance,” Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said. “When they got overaggressive, he made them foul him. When they weren’t aggressive enough and they were scared of how quick he is to get to a basket, he got to the step-back. When they blitzed and trapped him, he hit the guy in the pocket and just kind of took it easy.
“It really, really was a masterful performance. It was a piece of art.”
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