For the third time in his career, Damian Lillard put up 50+ points and the Trail Blazers lost anyway.
Portland came into the game having lost four in a row and 8-of-10, and sliding out of even the play-in picture in the West.
Damian Lillard played like a man determined to end that slump Thursday night — he put up 50 on 16-of-28 shooting.
50 points on 16-28 shooting.@Dame_Lillard was on one tonight. pic.twitter.com/1bccwDddlI
— NBA (@NBA) January 13, 2023
It took all of that for the Trail Blazers to have a single-digit lead for much of the night, but they were ahead — until the final minutes, when Portland didn’t execute well and the Cavaliers did.
Cleveland had balance, with Donovan Mitchell scoring 26, Jarrett Allen throwing down a lot of dunks on his way to 24, and Darius Garland chipping in 20. Cleveland also is usually fueled by one of the league’s best defenses, but Lillard and company were carving that up much of the night.
Top teams find a way to win when they are not at their best, and the Cavaliers got that win Thursday. They showed some grit.
Portland needs more grit, and not just from Lillard.