Damian Lillard entered Monday needing 21 points to pass Portland Trail Blazers icon Clyde Drexler as the franchise’s all-time leading scorer. He got there in the third quarter, only to watch Shai Gilges-Alexander steal the show at the buzzer.
With a free throw against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Lillard scored his 18,041th point, marking his name in the Trail Blazers record books.
He finished with 28 points Monday, including two tough buckets in traffic in the game’s final minute.
But it wasn’t enough for Portland, as Gilges-Alexander took the Blazers by the buzzer beater to give the Thunder a 123-121 win.
Gilgeos-Alexander finished with 35 points and 6 assists yesterday, making all 14 of his free throws. His heroics followed a breakout campaign and have been very similar to Lillard’s over the years. Lillard’s 28 points led the Blazers, but he’ll have to settle for his new place in Trail Blazers history on Monday.
Will Lillard’s record be broken?
Drexler played 11 more seasons in Portland and led the Trail Blazers to the NBA Finals in 1992, losing to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. He averaged 20.8 points in 867 career games before being traded to the Houston Rockets during the 1994-95 season.
Lillard, 32, could set a record if he retires in Portland. The six-time All-Star is averaging 24.7 points for his career and surpassed Drexler in his 730th NBA game. Lillard has been hampered by injuries this season and last. But when he’s healthy, he shows no signs of slowing down.
Lillard has been limited to 19 of Portland’s 31 games this season. He made the most of his availability, scoring 28.3 points per game and shooting 39.8% from 3-point range entering Monday night. He’s thrived since returning from a calf strain, while averaging 31.5 points in seven games since his return on Dec. 4. One of the best free throw shooters in the league (89.3% for his career), it’s fitting that Lillard broke the record at the line.
Drexler and Lillard are both members of the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team, which honors the 75 greatest players in league history. Drexler is in the Hall of Fame. It won’t take long for Lillard to hear his name called after retirement.