Coming into their Friday night contest against the Charlotte Hornets, the Trail Blazers had lost each of their seven games in the month of December.
This slump came amidst plenty of turmoil within the franchise’s management and trade talks, but superstar Damian Lillard seemed to have had enough.
After looking upset pregame, the six-time All-Star delivered a vintage performance in the comfortable 125-116 home win. Lillard started the onslaught early, scoring or assisting on 21 of the team’s 41 first-quarter points. Thus, helping the Trail Blazers jump to a 20-point lead early.
No three is too deep for Dame when he’s in the zone.
He’s got 17 after 1Q 🥵
— NBA (@NBA) December 18, 2021
Lillard finished the game with a season-high 43 points in what was easily his best game of the season. He scored from all over the court with the remarkable efficiency that we normally associate with his game.
The 40-point game is the 40th of Lillard’s career, making him the 25th player ever to reach that plateau. Of the 25, Lillard is only the 10th to register all of those 40-point games with a single franchise.
Here’s a look at his shot chart that includes going 6 of 11 from long distance and a near-perfect 13 of 14 from the free throw line.
You know Lillard is feeling it when he elevates for a one-handed dunk.
Every time Dame dunks, an angel gets its wings pic.twitter.com/rwfaVkPnnk
— Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) December 18, 2021
Although the numbers from this game are what is expected from Lillard, the six-time All-NBA guard has been a shell of himself this season. Whether it’s the new ball, the refocused officiating or his lingering abdomen injury, Lillard’s numbers until this point have been indicative of a major slump.
Playing in 23 of the team’s 29 games coming into the meeting against the Hornets, Lillard was averaging 22.0 points on shooting splits of 38.4 percent from the field and 30.5 percent from 3-point territory. While the scoring number is his lowest since 2014-15, the efficiency numbers are career-lows.
For a player that has averaged 27.2 points over the last six seasons, this 43-point performance is just his sixth game scoring 27 or more this season.
While the Trail Blazers will still miss CJ McCollum, who is out indefinitely with a collapsed right lung, this game could be a sign of things to come with respect to Lillard regaining his form.