Dame’s 49 points lift Blazers
MIAMI—Damian Lillard carried his team on his back Sunday, scoring a season-high 49 points as the Portland Trail Blazers stopped the Miami Heat 115-104 at AmericanAirlines Arena.
The 26-year-old point guard from Oakland, California made 12 free throws and nine three-pointers, the same number the entire Heat team did. His 49 points was just four fewer than the Miami starting lineup.
“That was one incredible performance,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “There may be less than five players in this league that you have to do something different on your pick-and-roll coverage. Lillard is one of those guys.
“Once he got going, there haven’t been many shooting performances like that in the league this year. He was outstanding.”
Despite playing on back-to-back nights, Lillard showed no signs of fatigue, making 14 of 21 shots from the floor.
It was Lillard’s 13th game this season with 30 or more points and his fourth with 40 or more. He started the night seventh in NBA scoring with an average of 26.5 points.
Lillard got help from Jusuf Nurkic, who had 21 points and 12 rebounds as Portland improved to 32-37 on the season.
CJ McCollum added 18 points as the Trail Blazers won their third game in a row and are now one game behind the Denver Nuggets for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference.
Blazers coach Terry Stotts said he hopes his players remain focused during their final 13 games, 10 of which are at home.
“Being at home doesn’t guarantee anything,” Stotts said. “Certainly, it’s an advantage, but we can’t let down our guard.”
In Los Angeles, Kyrie Irving scored 46 points as the Cleveland Cavaliers rolled over the Los Angeles Lakers 125-120 at Staples Center.
Irving connected on 15 of 21 shots from the floor for the Cavaliers, who increased their lead over the Boston Celtics for first place in the Eastern Conference to 2 1/2 games.
LeBron James tallied 34 points, seven assists and six rebounds, and Kevin Love added 21 points and 15 boards for Cleveland, who improved to 46-23.
Elsewhere, JJ Barea tallied 11 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter as the Dallas Mavericks went wire-to-wire to beat the Brooklyn Nets 111-104.
Germany’s Dirk Nowitzki led Dallas with 23 points, including 20 in the first three quarters when the Mavericks took an 82-72 lead. He also became the sixth NBA player to score at least 31,000 career points.