Since Damian Lillard arrived in the Pacific Northwest back in 2012, he’s been a steady leader for the Portland Trail Blazers. He’s been named an NBA All-Star five different times. This season Lillard has taken his game to a new level where he’s averaging better than 29 points per game, good enough for fifth-best in the NBA. On Tuesday night, Damian Lillard scored 61 points for the Blazers, his third 60-point effort of the 2020 season. In the process, Lillard accomplished something Michael Jordan was unable to do in his career and finds himself in rare company with Wilt Chamberlain.
Damian Lillard’s impressive career
From the start of his NBA career, Damian Lillard has been impressive. After getting drafted by the Blazers out of tiny Weber State with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft, Lillard came in and started every game his rookie season. He went on to average 19 points per contest and was named the NBA Rookie of the Year.
What has followed has been the steady improvement of Lillard’s game year after year. Both his second and third year he made the All-Star Game as his numbers increased. By his fourth season, he was averaging better than 25 points and more than six assists per contests.
The previous three seasons in Portland Damian Lillard’s offensive production levels have remained remarkably consistent. During that span, he’s averaged 26.5 points, 6.4 assists, and 4.6 rebounds per contest. He’s also been named an All-Star two out of the three seasons.
Damian Lillard’s record-setting pace in 2020
This season, Damian Lillard provided early hints he was in for a big year. During the season opener, he scored 32 points. The next game, he added another 35. Two weeks later, Lillard set the franchise record (breaking his own record of 59 set in 2017), scoring 60 points against the Brooklyn Nets. It turns out, Lillard was just getting started.
Just over a couple of months later, Lillard passed the 60-point mark a second time in the season. Against Golden State, the 29-year-old guard dissected the Warriors defense with 61 points on 17-of-37 shooting, and 11-of-20 from behind the arc.
Since the NBA restart at the bubble in Orlando, Lillard, understandably, hasn’t performed at his pre-shutdown levels. Outside of two games in which he scored 45 and 51, respectively, Lillard has averaged 21.8 points per game.
Lillard joins Wilt Chamberlain
Damian Lillard’s 51-point effort in his last game against the Philadelphia 76ers was his fifth 50-point game of the season and a pre-cursor of things to come. Against the Dallas Mavericks in a contest with playoff implications, Lillard came out hot, driving hard to the bucket and draining three-pointers from long distance. At the end of three quarters, Lillard had 33 points.
In the fourth, Lillard started the quarter sitting on the bench. When he entered, he went on a tear scoring 28 points to finish with 61 points tying his career-best, and the team’s franchise high. More impressively, Lillard joined some exclusive company becoming just the sixth player in NBA history to score multiple 60-point games in a career. He joins Elgin Baylor (3), Michael Jordan (4), James Harden (4), Kobe Bryant (6), and Wilt Chamberlain (32).
Lillard’s third 60-point game of the season put him in even more elite company. Chamberlain is the only other player to score 60 that many times in a season, and he accomplished the feat in 1961-62 when he did it 15 times, and followed it up in 1962-63 scoring 60 or more an unbelievable nine times.
While Damian Willard will never threaten Wilt Chamberlain’s records, he has managed to etch his name in the record books numerous times in his eight seasons in the NBA. At this pace, there will surely be more records to tumble. It’s now just a matter of what other exclusive clubs he plans to join.
All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.