Northwest Notes: Lillard, Conley, Gilgeous-Alexander

Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard became the second player to reach the 70-point mark this season, torching the Rockets for 71 points on Sunday, writes Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. Playing for the first time since the All-Star break, Lillard made 13 three-pointers on the night, one short of the NBA record, and reached 41 points by halftime.

“I think any hooper enjoys those moments when you’re hot, you’re in attack mode, you’re feeling good,” Lillard said. “But it’s the stuff afterward that I struggle with, like when I walked off the court, was I supposed to be overly excited, or what?”

Lillard set a career high for scoring and broke the single-game franchise record of 61 points, which he had reached twice. Speaking to reporters after the game, including Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian, coach Chauncey Billups marveled at the performance by Lillard, who is in the midst of the highest-scoring season of his career at age 32.

“He just wasn’t forcing at all,” Billups said. “He understood what they were going to come out and do. And that takes some incredible discipline to know, all right, I’m not gonna force it. I’m just gonna fall back. And that was just so impressive to me.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Lillard hasn’t wavered in his commitment to the Trail Blazers, but the opportunity to compete for a title remains very important to him, according to Baxter Holmes of ESPN. Lillard points to Giannis Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee and Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas as examples of players who were able to get a ring after critics said they needed to move on to another team. “We devalue people’s body of work if you don’t win a championship,” Lillard said. “I’ve shown up for 11 straight years. Just think about how much time that is. When you really think about 11 straight years and I’ve given them something to cheer for. We’ve won a lot of games. I’ve given them great performances. I don’t give excuses. I give them my all.”
  • Timberwolves guard Mike Conley sees a lot that the team needs to correct before it can make a playoff run, per Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. Minnesota let a lead slip away Sunday night while losing to the shorthanded Warriors. “We can talk about the last two minutes, but there’s a lot of things that go on … that set us up for those positions,” Conley said. “Youth will do that. You get guys worried about missing a shot and they turned it over and might be thinking about that particular play too long. Then they miss an assignment on the defensive end. It’s all little things that can be fixed.”
  • The Thunder are optimistic that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander won’t be sidelined much longer, states Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. The star guard missed his second straight game on Sunday with an abdominal strain and right ankle soreness, but there’s hope that he might return Tuesday.
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