Damian Lillard is not messing around in the bubble.
The Portland Trail Blazers star put in perhaps the best performance of the NBA restart on Tuesday when he dropped 61 points on the Dallas Mavericks in a 134-131 win to move Portland into the eighth seed in the Western Conference.
Lillard scored 22 of the team’s final 34 points in the fourth quarter, including three assists in that span.
Not only was it a jaw-dropping performance, but it was also a historic one.
Lillard’s 61 points was his third 60-point game of the season, joining Wilt Chamberlain as the only players in NBA history with at least three 60-point games in a single season. (Chamberlain had 15 in 1961-62 and nine in 1962-63.)
He also became the fourth player with six or more 50-point games in a season since the 1976-77 merger, joining Kobe Bryant (twice), Michael Jordan and James Harden.
The Blazers now lead the Grizzlies, Suns and Spurs by half a game each with one more game remaining before the playoffs. The new rules allow for a play-in game if the ninth place team finishes within 3.5 games of the eighth-place team.
Should Lillard and the Trail Blazers hang onto the eighth seed, they will be a hot team and potentially dangerous matchup for the first-place Los Angeles Lakers.