SACRAMENTO (AP) — Damian Lillard didn’t fight Portland coach Terry Stotts’ decision to sit him in the fourth quarter, even though the Trail Blazers point guard was well within reach of his career high for points.
Having scored a season-high 50 in 29 minutes — the fourth 50-point game of his career — Lillard saw no reason to tempt fate.
Lillard scored 22 points in the third quarter, and the Blazers beat the Sacramento Kings 118-100 on Friday night.
“I saw we were up 20 and I was like, ‘OK, if we keep this lead there’s really no reason to go back in there,’” Lillard said. “I’d rather have a 50 in 29 minutes with some character than go out there and chase 60. I feel like that’s bad karma.”
Lillard scored at will, making 16 of 26 shots — including eight 3-pointers — and all 10 of his free-throw attempts. His only action in the fourth came when Stotts sent him to the scorer’s table briefly after Sacramento cut Portland’s lead to 13.
When Shabazz Napier stopped the Kings’ run with a 3-pointer, Lillard looked at Stotts and the two men nodded in agreement that his night was over.
Lillard, who also had six assists, joined teammate CJ McCollum and Houston’s James Harden as the only players to score 50 points through three quarters this season.
“Damian was outstanding,” Stotts said. “To have another 50-point scorer under 30 minutes is pretty impressive. The way he was shooting it, he knew he had a good feel tonight.”
Maurice Harkless added 15 points, McCollum scored 13 and Ed Davis had five points and 14 rebounds for Portland, which made 15 3-pointers. The Blazers were coming off an overtime win in Charlotte on Thursday that snapped a three-game losing streak.
Lillard, Portland’s lone All-Star this season, scored 15 points during a 17-0 run that closed out the third quarter and put the Blazers up 92-74. He made two 3s during the run and silenced the crowd when he drove the left side of the lane and flipped the ball in with his right hand.
“I just knew that I needed to control the game at that point,” Lillard said. “It didn’t necessarily mean scoring. The ball just went in. I was being aggressive and the ball went in.”
Sacramento made five consecutive 3s in the fourth quarter, four by Buddy Hield, and pulled within 107-94 with 4:45 left. Napier’s 3-pointer halted the Kings’ surge.
Willie Cauley-Stein had 19 points and six rebounds, and Zach Randolph added 17 points and nine boards for Sacramento.
Lillard had 14 points and made three of Portland’s six 3-pointers in the first quarter. Evan Turner hit an off-balance 11-footer to end the period and put the Blazers up 33-31.
“When a guard’s got it going like that, it’s tough to stop,” Kings guard De’Aaron Fox said. “All you can do is try to contain him. It’s not much you can do about it.”
After Randolph’s layup over Nurkic pulled Sacramento within 49-47 in the second, Lillard scored nine consecutive points and then added a 17-foot step-back jumper with 1.7 seconds left to put Portland up 62-52 at halftime.
Blazers: Lillard’s eight 3-pointers were one shy of his own franchise record, which he matched earlier this season against Houston on Dec. 9. ... Portland improved to 2-1 against the Kings this season. The teams split back-to-back games in November.
Kings: Iman Shumpert, who was part of the trade that sent George Hill to Cleveland, arrived for the game but did not suit up. ... Skal Labissiere (left rotator cuff strain) expects to return after the All-Star break.
JOHNSON IN LIMBO
Joe Johnson, who was traded to Sacramento from Utah as part of the three-team deal, is unsure where his future rests. With expectations that the Kings will buy the veteran guard out of the remainder of his contract — which would make him a free agent available to sign with any team — Johnson has not reported to Sacramento.
HE SAID IT
“We did a super job on (Lillard) in the fourth quarter where we held him scoreless.” — Kings coach Dave Joerger.
Blazers: Host Utah on Sunday.
Kings: Visit Minnesota on Sunday.