For the Portland Trail Blazers, every seeding game is a must-win
As such, All-Star Damian Lillard was on another level, tying a career-high with 11 triples en route to finishing with 45 points to go along with 12 assists in the Blazers 125-115 win over the Denver Nuggets.
Per StatMuse, Lillard becomes the first player in league history to score 45 or more points while dishing out 10-plus assists and hitting 10 or more 3s.
Damian Lillard is the first player with 45+ points, 10+ assists, 10+ threes in a game in NBA history. pic.twitter.com/xKtj6LBJfJ- StatMuse (@statmuse) August 7, 2020
MORE: Is Lillard the league's best scorer?
More importantly, the win moves the Blazers within a half-game of the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth seed in the Western Conference with four seeding games remaining on the schedule of both teams.
Should Portland overtake Memphis in the standings, it will have to win just one play-in game to extend its postseason streak to seven years.
The Blazers are playing great basketball at the right time, thanks largely in part to the return of Jusuf Nurkic and the continuous emergence of second-year guard Gary Trent Jr., both of whom were the beneficiaries of Lillard's playmaking.
Trent knocked down seven triples of his own, finishing the game with 27 points on 10-for-15 shooting while Nurkic added 22 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks against his former team.
As a team, Portland knocked down a franchise-record 23 3-pointers and Trent brought his total number of triples in the restart to 22, which is more than any other player has hit.
23 THREES. That's a team record.- Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) August 7, 2020
11 THREES FOR DAME. That ties HIS OWN franchise record.
22 THREES FOR GARY IN ORLANDO. That's the most in the bubble. pic.twitter.com/KDYZFDkv21
For the Nuggets, these seeding games aren't as important, meaning they could afford to sit key players like Will Barton, Gary Harris and Jamal Murray in this one.
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Denver should be encouraged that it still had opportunities to win without the aforementioned three, thanks largely in part to rookie Michael Porter Jr., who finished with a team-high 27 points (on 10-for-18 shooting) and 12 rebounds. Nikola Jokic played in just 23 minutes but managed to dish out a game-high 13 assists and Bol Bol came off the bench to score nine points and grab five rebounds.
The Nuggets trail the LA Clippers by 1.5 games for third in the West and the two teams meet next week. Once the games start to count, Denver will need everyone in order to make a run.
Denver is back in action when it takes on the Utah Jazz Saturday while the Blazers face another tough test in the Clippers on Saturday.
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