The best of the best
The Portland Trail Blazers visited ORACLE Arena Jan. 11 in a matchup with the Golden State Warriors, and if you haven’t heard about Damian Lillard’s performance, let me be the first to tell you that he absolutely torched the opposing defense.
Having shot 7-of-12 from the three-point line, Damian Lillard finished with a career-high 37 points in his return to Oakland—the city where he was raised.
But the question here isn’t whether or not Lillard had a great game—he did, and there’s no denying that. The question is, was it the best performance of the entire 2012-13 season for Rip City?
5. J.J. Hickson (Nov. 12, 2012 vs. Atlanta Hawks), LaMarcus Aldridge (Dec. 10, 2012 vs. Toronto Raptors)
We all knew that J.J. Hickson was going to be an energy guy, but few projected he would be as productive as he’s been throughout the first half of the year. Just seven games into the season, he had a 19-point, 18-rebound performance against the Atlanta Hawks.
LaMarcus Aldridge, on the other hand, has been known to have big games, and he’s also been known to do his damage against the Toronto Raptors. On Dec. 10, he recorded 30 points on 11-of-19 shooting, while also pulling down 12 rebounds and blocking two shots in a 92-74 victory.
4. Nicolas Batum (Nov. 16 vs. Houston Rockets)
Nicolas Batum had a lot to prove after signing his big-time contract in the offseason, but it didn’t take long for fans to realize the Trail Blazers made the right decision.
The Blazers made their first trip to Houston on Nov. 16, and Batum had one of the best games that the league had seen in the young season. He scored an impressive 35 points on 13-of-19 shooting, and he also recorded six rebounds, five blocks and four assists.
Unfortunately, Batum also turned the ball over seven times, putting a bit of a damper on his great showing in Texas. But if we’re looking at the whole picture, this was one of the first games where we saw him truly assert himself on offense, which is what fans had been begging for every year since his rookie season.
3. Damian Lillard (Oct. 31, 2012 vs. Los Angeles Lakers)
Following one of the most disappointing seasons in Trail Blazers history, the opening-night matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers was welcomed with as much excitement as any season-opener around the league.
We all knew that Lillard was going to enter the league and make a name for himself, but no one expected his first game to go down in NBA history.
Lillard became the first rookie since LeBron James to record at least 21 points and nine assists in his debut. He also became just the third player of all time to have a 20-point, 10-assist performance, as he finished with 23 and 11.
The Blazers were looking for their point guard of the future in the 2012 NBA draft, and while one game means little over the course of a career, this one gave fans hope that they’d finally found the player they’d been searching for.
2. Nicolas Batum (Dec. 17, 2012 vs. New Orleans Hornets)
Having posted 11 points, 10 assists, five rebounds, five steals and five blocks, Batum recorded a 5X5 on Dec. 17, 2012. His low point total is what kept him out of the spotlight for many, but nobdy can claim he didn’t make his mark on that game.
Batum has had a number of performances this season where he’s racked up stat lines that look more impressive at first glance, but the last player to record a 5X5 was Andrei Kirilenko in 2006. In fact, it’s only happened 15 times in the last 27 years, placing Batum in rare company.
1. Damian Lillard (Jan. 12, 2013 vs. Golden State Warriors)
Damian Lillard‘s career-high against the Golden State Warriors had to be No. 1 on this list.
Despite coming off a huge win over the Miami Heat the night before, all anybody wanted to talk about heading into this game was how Lillard would perform making his hometown debut in the city of Oakland. This game was his homecoming, and he impressed his friends, his family and everybody else who paid attention around the league.
Scoring eight of the team’s first 12 points, we knew the point guard was on his way to a good night. But it wasn’t until the third quarter when he officially took over.
Portland needed scoring, as nobody else on the roster was producing. Lillard showed that he can put the team on his shoulders, and he brought them back single-handedly when the game looked like it was lost early.
At 22 years old, Lillard is a true leader, and with a performance like this, he’s looking to lock up the Rookie of the Year award nice and early.