On April 8th in 2017, Damian Lillard erupted for a career-high and a Trail Blazers franchise-record 59 points in a crucial 101-86 victory against the Utah Jazz at home. He broke Damon Stoudamire's franchise-record of 54 points while eclipsing his previous career-mark of 51 points.
Lillard's performance couldn't have come at a better time, with the Trail Blazers locked in a two-team fight with the Denver Nuggets for the West's eighth seed.
"I knew before the game that I was going to come out, and I was going to attack them," Lillard said. "Knowing how important the game was, I decided early [I] was going to come out here and try to impose my will on them."
Lillard knew the importance of the game and came out red-hot.
He scored 26 (9-of-14 FG) of the team's 34 points in the first quarter, single-handedly outscoring the Jazz by six points. The 26 points is a franchise record for most points scored in a single quarter.
Courtesy of his early explosion, the Blazers, after one lead change very early on, led for a majority of the game. In fact, they led by as many as 20 late in the fourth quarter.
Despite all the celebration around his performance and the win, Lillard, after registering his third career 50-point game, handed the game-ball to Joe Johnson. Johnson had crossed the 20,000 points mark in the same game.
"I know I was going to take the game ball, but I think it was Joe Johnson's 20,000th point," Lillard explained in a postgame interview. "So I told them to give it to him. You know, it's an accomplishment for him as well. So, you know, I told them just let me get my jersey."
With this win, the Trail Blazers remained ahead of the Nuggets with two games to go. Eventually, the Blazers clinched the playoff spot.
Other notable events on April 8th
- In 1978, in their final game in Buffalo before moving to San Diego and changing their name to the Clippers, the Braves lost 118-107 to the New York Knicks. Six years later, the Clippers moved to Los Angeles.
- In 1989, the Denver Nuggets' Alex English passed 2,000 points for the season in a 110-106 win against the Utah Jazz. He became the first player in NBA history to record eight straight seasons of scoring at least 2,000 points.
- In 1991, as the Seattle Supersonics defeated the Denver Nuggets 118-112, their head coach K.C. Johnson became the 14th head coach in NBA history to reach the 500 win mark.
- In 1993, Don Nelson became the eighth coach in NBA history to reach the 750 win plateau when the Golden State Warriors defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 122-116 in overtime.
- In 1995, Pat Riley also joined the 750-win club when his New York Knicks defeated the Detroit Pistons 113-96.
- In 1996, Charlotte Hornets handed the Chicago Bulls squad, that would go on to win a record 72 games, a 98-97 loss despite 40 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists from Michael Jordan.
- In 1996, George McCloud of the Dallas Mavericks set the single-season record for 3-point attempts with his 612th. He went on hoist up 678 that season, a mark James Harden almost doubled in the 2018-19 season.
The views expressed here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.