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Analysis: The Jazz were on the wrong side of NBA history against the Blazers, thanks to Damian Lillard

Lillard scored 60 points on only 29 shot attempts, the most efficient 60-point game in NBA history.

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Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, left, hits a 3-point shot over Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023. Lillard scored 60 points, including nine 3-pointers, as the Blazers won 134-124.

Steve Dykes, AP

The Utah Jazz went to Portland and unfortunately entered the Moda Center for a game against the Trail Blazers during Dame Time. The Trail Blazers won, 134-124.

Dame Time

Damian Lillard scored 60 points on only 29 shot attempts, the most efficient 60-point game in NBA history. Only nine of his points came from the free throw line and he shot at a 60% clip from 3-point range and 72.4% overall.

He’s the fourth player to score 60 points on a field goal percentage of at least 70% in NBA history, joining Wilt Chamberlain (who did it four times), Karl Malone and David Thompson.

The way that Lillard was playing made it feel like defenders were just part of an obstacle course, the basket was the size of the ocean, and he was just out there having the time of his life.


The Blazers put together every one of Lillard’s made baskets in a nice little video and it’s just unbelievable the varied ways he was able to punish the Jazz. He had 50 points by the end of the third quarter and as the Blazers broadcaster’s point out, it didn’t feel like he broke a sweat.

A truly incredible performance.

What could have been done?

Were there defensive breakdowns? Yes. The Jazz were slow on their defensive decision-making, the double-team was barely effective because Lillard just broke away before they could really get set, and even when they did get set they seemed afraid to get physical with him.

This is not going to be a game that the Jazz look back on and are proud of how they performed on the defensive end. But at the same time, even if they’d been more physical, more focused and executed with more attention to detail, it would have had to happen really early on because once a player like Lillard feels like he’s in the zone there’s almost nothing that can stop him.

“I guess in theory, we could have sent three people after him,” Jazz head coach Will Hardy said. “I’m not sure that would have worked either.”

Even when the double team was effective at getting the ball out of Lillard’s hands, the Jazz were slow or just unable to get into their rotations and pick up the open man. You often hear coaches say that you have to pick your poison, but in this situation there’s just a bunch of poison all around constantly.

If anything, the earliest defensive breakdowns are the ones that the Jazz will want to look at tomorrow. Those were the ones that allowed Lillard to get into a rhythm and see the ball go in. That’s where they should have put in more effort.

Some good THT moments

It’s nearly impossible to remember that Talen Horton-Tucker is just 22 years old. He just doesn’t look like that young of a person and it feels like he’s been in the league for so long.

But, when you do remember that he’s young and that he still has a lot of learning to do, it allows you to appreciate when you see his game evolving.

Take a look at this pass:

Ignore the part where Jarred Vanderbilt isn’t able to convert and get Horton-Tucker the assist he deserves. It’s just a really smart read and sharp play by a guy who is really starting to see the floor differently.

It doesn’t happen all the time, and there are still moments where it feels like Horton-Tucker doesn’t know where his teammates are and doesn’t have a contingency plan, but those moments are becoming fewer and farther between.

Now take a look at this patience and this shot:

If that’s not the influence of Mike Conley, then I don’t know what is. If Horton-Tucker can add more of this to his game, then he really might have a bright future. It’s not just about adding a floater into the shooting repertoire, it’s about using time and space and allowing the game to come to him rather than forcing his game onto a particular moment.