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‘It felt so simple:’ Damian Lillard explodes for 60 points to inspire Portland Trail Blazers to victory

<i>Soobum Im/Getty Images</i><br/>Damian Lillard was locked in on January 25
Getty Images
Soobum Im/Getty Images
Damian Lillard was locked in on January 25

By Ben Church, CNN

Damian Lillard was locked in on Wednesday, exploding for a season-high 60 points on just 29 shot attempts and 10 free throws, to help the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Utah Jazz 134-124.

Only two players in NBA history, Karl Malone and James Harden, have scored 60 points in a game with fewer shot attempts but both needed more free throws than Lillard, according to ESPN.

“When you’re in that kind of groove, you always feel like you can get it back going in the right direction for the team,” Lillard said in his post-game interview on court.

“You get in that type of zone, you feel like you can control the outcome.”

It’s the fourth time Lillard has hit the 60-point benchmark in an NBA game, but he’s rarely been so efficient.

The 32-year-old made nine three-pointers from 15 attempts and shot 72% overall from the field against the Jazz.

He’s now moved into sixth on the all-time three-pointer list after passing Vince Carter with his eighth effort on Wednesday.

“Any time you score 60 points, it’s special, but I think this one I felt like it came pretty simple,” he told reporters after the game.

“I played the game as it should have been played. I knew it was a game we needed to win, so I came out with the mentality to attack and be aggressive, but it wasn’t like I came out on fire.

“It was just different because it felt so simple.”

Despite his brilliant form, the Jazz kept pace for much of the game, but Lillard’s efficiency eventually proved too much to handle.

The Blazer point guard became just the fifth player to hit 60 points on four occasions in his career, joining a prestigious list which includes Wilt Chamberlain, Kobe Bryant, James Harden and Michael Jordan.

But, ever the team player, Lillard gave up the opportunity to record a career-high mark with just seconds left on the clock — his best remains 61 points.

“I wasn’t going to be that thirsty to come back down with that much time left in the game just to get a career high,” he said.

“I didn’t feel like that was the right thing to do, so that was how it ended.”

Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups praised his player for his memorable performance but said he was surprised Lillard didn’t go for a career high in the final moments.

“That’s the only reason I kept him in the game,” Billups told reporters. “I would have got him out.

“I told him when I pulled him over, I said, ‘Bro, what are you doing? We’re running the same play. I’m trying to get you your career high.’

“He looked at me and said, ‘OK, I’ll get it.’ Bro, I would have got you out and got you the standing O you deserved. That just speaks to who he is. He wasn’t even thinking about that.”

Lillard has the chance to build on his incredible performance when the Portland Trail Blazers play the Toronto Raptors on Sunday.

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