Playing their first game in six days, the Portland Trail Blazers were suiting up, against a young and feisty Knicks squad, without two of their starters in CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic.
Finding himself in a situation very similar to early last season, when the team was ravaged with injuries, Damian Lillard once again led the way. He finished with game-high tallies of 39 points and eight assists to help Portland win 116-113 but it wasn't easy.
The Trail Blazers led by as many as 25 early in the third quarter but the visiting Knicks clawed their way back with a furious second-half rally - one that nearly won them the game.
Knicks rookie Immanuel Quickley shines
Coming into this game, rookie Immanuel Quickley - the 25th overall pick of the 2020 Draft - had shown in multiple games that he's the real deal. In case, nobody had noticed yet, he showed out yet again.
This time, he nearly capped-off the Knicks' 25-point comeback with a masterful fourth-quarter performance. He scored 21 of the team's 36 points in the final period including a perfect 6-of-6 from the free-throw line in the final 1:33 of the game.
21 in the 4th.- NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) January 25, 2021
The rook battled tonight in Portland notching a career-high 31 points. pic.twitter.com/vGNHsSglIW
His team-high tallies of 31 points and five made 3-pointers are also career-highs - making him the first player in franchise history to register those numbers off the bench.
"It's impressive and, again, I think his shotmaking is a huge asset for our team," Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau said postgame. "That's something that we needed, is shooting, and it'll open up the floor for us. But his all-around play gets better with each outing.
This is his fourth instance of scoring at least 17 points in the last seven games. More importantly, in three of those four games, he's shot better than 50% from the field and from beyond the arc.
For this game, he was just one of three Knicks to finish in double figures. Julius Randle - 25 points, seven rebounds, five assists, two steals - and Alec Burks - 18 points, three steals - were the others.
Lillard carries Trail Blazers with stellar efficiency
For the first 26 minutes of this game, the Trail Blazers were absolutely dominant and led 77-52. At that point, Lillard led all players with 25 points and five assists on a perfect shooting night of 8-of-8 from the field.
His red-hot shooting rubbed off on his teammates. The trio of Derrick Jones Jr., Anfernee Simons, and Gary Trent Jr. combined for 33 points on 12-of-18 shooting. However, for the rest of the game, Portland's offense dried up as the Knicks made their rally.
Shorthanded, the team looked to Lillard and he answered the call. In the final six minutes of the game, he was responsible for nine of the team's 18 points - helping the hosts respond to their opponents' runs.
While helping the team hold on for the victory, Lillard broke multiple shooting records in the game. He knocked down 6-of-10 from beyond the arc, passing Chauncey Billups for 17th all-time on the 3-pointers made list.
En route to not missing an attempt from the free-throw line (11-of-11), he also broke a franchise record, one he previously set, for the most consecutive made free-throws - 66.
According to @EliasSports Damian Lillard is the only player in NBA history to score 35 points while going 10-10 (or better) from the free throw line in 3 straight games.- ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 25, 2021
Lillard has now done this twice (Feb. 2018 and Jan. 2021). pic.twitter.com/iRiSdZeb7x
He was one of five Trail Blazers in double figures. Off the bench, Simons scored a season-high 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field in a season-high 23 minutes.
"Good teams in this league weather those storms, find a way to execute down the stretch," Lillard said postgame. "It wasn't pretty, it wasn't perfect but we walked away with the W"
Courtesy the win, Portland improves to 9-6 for the season - good for 4th in the West. Meanwhile, the Knicks slip to 8-10 and now travel to Salt Lake City to wrap-up their road trip.
The views on this page do not necessarily represent the views of the NBA or its clubs.