Lillard helps Blazers blitz Heat for 10th straight victory
PORTLAND, ORE. >> As the Portland Trail Blazers keep winning, Damian Lillard should keep climbing in the MVP conversation, according to Miami coach Erik Spoelstra.
Lillard had 32 points and 10 assists, and the Trail Blazers beat the Heat 115-99 on Monday night for their 10th straight victory.
Jusuf Nurkic added 27 points and 16 rebounds for the Blazers, who have the longest current winning streak in the NBA and a twogame lead over Oklahoma City for the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference.
After Lillard put the finishing touches on the win, Spoelstra said Portland’s AllStar deserves a little more recognition league-wide.
“I don’t know if there is any other player in this league right now that is playing at a higher level than Lillard,” Spoelstra said. “You know the names in the MVP conversation. The way he’s playing right now and winning, he deserves to be in that conversation as well.”
The Heat used an 18-2 run to start the fourth quarter to trim a 19-point deficit to three, but Lillard took charge for the Blazers, just as he has throughout the winning streak. The All-Star guard broke Portland’s drought of over five minutes with a 3-pointer midway through the period to put Portland back in front by six, and the Blazers stayed safely ahead from there.
Lillard scored 21 points after halftime. He leads the league in second-half scoring.
“It’s not just about him being a great player, it is the timing of his greatness, that is so unique,” Spoelstra added. “Every time there needs to be a big-time play, or if momentum started to go our way, he made that play.”
Rockets 109, Spurs 93
HOUSTON >> James Harden scored 16 of his 28 points in the third quarter to allow Houston to build a huge lead and sail to an easy victory over San Antonio.
The NBA’s leading scorer took a little while to get going a night after sitting out against Dallas with a sore left knee and had just 12 points at halftime.
The Spurs, who were without leading scorer LaMarcus Aldridge, got 14 points each from Bryn Forbes and Derrick White. They lost for the fifth time in six games as they fight for a playoff spot.
Thunder 106, Kings 101
OKLAHOMA CITY >> Russell Westbrook scored 17 points and notched his 20th triple-double of the season to help Oklahoma City beat Sacramento.
Westbrook had 10 rebounds and 11 assists in the 99th triple-double of his career. Paul George and Carmelo Anthony each scored 21 points for the Thunder.
Bucks 121, Grizzlies 103
MEMPHIS, TENN. >> Khris Middleton scored 24 points, Giannis Antetokounmpo added 20 and Milwaukee sent Memphis to its 18th consecutive loss.
Brandon Jennings, signed to a 10-day contract by Milwaukee on Sunday, finished two rebounds short of a triple-double with 16 points and 12 assists.