Damian Lillard brilliance snaps Lakers winning streak

By @saihoops on
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Jan 16, 2018; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) drives on Phoenix Suns guard Tyler Ulis (8) in the first half at Moda Center. USA TODAY Sports / Jaime Valdez

All-Star point guard Damian Lillard scored 19 of his 39 points in the fourth quarter as the Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 108-103 at the Staples Center on Monday night (Tuesday AEDT). With the victory, the Blazers extended their winning streak to 15 games over their Western Conference rivals.

The young Lakers, playing without the injured duo of Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart, claimed a 80-73 lead entering the fourth quarter and were primed to build on their recent five-game winning streak. However, they ran into a red-hot Lillard in the final period; the Blazers guard scored 15 consecutive points down the stretch to give his team a 104-103 lead with 1:08 remaining in the game.

After CJ McCollom missed a pair of free throws, the Lakers had an opportunity to tie the game in the closing seconds until Isaiah Thomas was stripped by Shabazz Napier, who proceeded to make two free throws to ice the game for Portland. The Blazers, sitting pretty in the third seed, have now won seven consecutive games.

Lakers have no answer for Damian Lillard  

Lakers coach Luke Walton acknowledged that Lillard was the difference between the two teams in a closely-fought battle. "We tried to get a blitz on him (Lillard), but a lot of times he was just attacking before the screen even got there. But our execution down the stretch on offense and defense, that was the frustrating part," Walton told reporters after the game, via ESPN.

Napier, who made a few clutch free throws for the Blazers down the stretch, said he was lucky to be on the same team as Lillard. "I've seen a lot of great basketball in my life, but today I was like wow. He made it look so easy, effortless. I just saw it in his eyes. He wanted the ball every single time, he wanted to take the shot. He definitely willed us today," Napier said after the Blazers notched up their seventh consecutive game.

After hosting the Trail Blazers, Lonzo Ball and the Lakers will now stay at home to host the lowly Orlando Magic on Wednesday (Thursday AEDT) before visiting the Denver Nuggets on Friday (Saturday AEDT). The Trail Blazers, meanwhile, will return home for five consecutive games starting with an encounter against the New York Knicks on Wednesday AEDT.