Damian Lillard is the best thing about Portland right now – and that includes its legendary breweries. It would be a big upset to see playoff basketball in the Rose City come May, but the rookie point guard is what is keeping that city’s hoops hopes from wilting altogether. His latest feat was hitting a 25-foot three-pointer with just a fraction of a second left on the clock to stun New Orleans on Sunday night, 95-94, a high-arcing three over the outstretched arm of 6-10 Ryan Anderson (26 points). Portland has the luxury of having one of the most offensively gifted forwards in the NBA in LaMarcus Aldridge (20 points but just three boards), but the aura that surrounds Lillard’s game is so strong few could have thought the ball was going in anyone else’s hands on the final possession – even if Aldridge hadn’t hobbled off the court with less than a minute left. It was Lillard’s fourth three of the night, to finish with 16 points. It also was the final coda on a 16-point comeback that reminded us of Portland’s big rally in Cleveland on Dec. 1 that kick-started this new life from the Blazers, winners of five of their last seven. He didn’t shoot that well, just 5-of-14, but never really killed the Blazers either with just one turnover and few forced drives. Lillard’s final shot will get the superlatives but undersized J.J. Hickson is becoming one of Portland’s most dependable players, too. With 24 and 16 he recorded his fifth straight double-double. Nicolas Batum was simply everywhere, with 11 points, 10 assists, and five steals, rebounds and blocks each. Lillard, though, is quickly entering Kyrie Irving territory and becoming a player you hate to turn away from. … Sacramento got steamrolled by Denver at home, 122-97, showing the kind of energy befitting a team playing in Sleep Train Arena. When Aaron Brooks got in Andre Miller‘s face on a hard foul, it was about the emotional high-water mark of the game for the Kings, who were down by 30 to start the fourth. Andre Iguodala had a classic Iggy game, getting 11 points, eight boards and eight dimes and filling in where needed. If his team loses it’s, “Why didn’t he take more control?” and if he wins it’s “What a perfect teammate!” … JaVale McGee had 19 points for Denver because he simply was not pushed out of the lane. Every one of his seven buckets came within four feet. … Hit the jump to read about how Andrew Bynum was “stunted” long before his injury …
Smack / Dec 17, 2012 / 2:00 am
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