Damian Lillard looks to build off his best performance of the young season when the Portland Trail Blazers open a three-game road trip against the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday night.
Lillard scored a season-high 25 points in the Trail Blazers’ 111-92 home win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday. He made 9 of 17 shots from the floor and 5 of 7 from 3-point range versus the Clippers after entering the game 24 of 72 (33.3 percent) from the field and 6 of 35 (17.1 percent) from beyond the arc.
“I’m a shot-maker, a scorer. So when I’m not making shots, it’s frustrating,” Lillard said. “I don’t think I ever said it wasn’t frustrating. I wasn’t happy about it at all, but I’ve been around long enough in this league to know that it’s part of the game.
“I’ve had stretches where I’ve scored 50 points a game for a week. You can’t enjoy that part of it and then, when (expletive) goes south and it’s your turn to go through a slump or a struggle, you can’t switch up and be like ‘This shouldn’t happen,’ pouting and all that.”
Portland coach Chauncey Billups was happy to see Lillard break through on Friday.
“The thing about Dame, as you all know, whatever he’s got going on, he doesn’t wear it. He’s the same guy on his great days and on his not-so-great days. He handles adversity and prosperity the same way,” Billups said. “But, let’s be honest, we’re all human, nobody wants to struggle at something they’re really, really good at, for even a small amount of time.”
While the Trail Blazers vie for their third straight victory, the Hornets will look to prevent a third loss in four games on Sunday. Charlotte, in fact, found itself trailing by double digits for the sixth consecutive contest on Friday before dropping a 114-99 decision to the Miami Heat.
“We just have to play better (at the start). There’s no magic sauce. I’m not going to do dances for them or give them a pep talk every single game,” Hornets coach James Borrego said of a contest in which his team trailed by as many as 26 points. “We have to play better — period.”
Reigning NBA Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball made just 2 of 14 shots from the floor and missed all five attempts from 3-point range to finish with six points.
Gordon Hayward scored 23 points and Miles Bridges added 22 for Charlotte, which may have last season’s leading scorer Terry Rozier (sprained left ankle) on the floor Sunday. Rozier is listed as probable after a four-game absence.
“He adds a different strength. Obviously, he is a big-time catch-and-shoot-player, and we play through him a ton, especially in the fourth quarter,” Borrego said of Rozier, who averaged a career-high 20.4 points last season.
P.J. Washington chipped in a season-high nine points and grabbed five rebounds in his return from a two-game absence due to right knee soreness.
“It just felt good to be out on the floor,” Washington said, per the Charlotte Observer. “My knee was feeling pretty good, so I was just excited for that.”