Damian Lillard says the Portland Trail Blazers are making the best of a tough situation after CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic went down with injuries.
“I just like the fact that we continue to roll,” Lillard said. “Obviously with CJ being out is a blow and Nurkic being out is a blow, but we haven’t used it as a crutch or excuse. We haven’t put our heads down and pouted about it. We just kept working and kept going after it.”
Lillard scored 36 points, Al-Farouq Aminu added 17 and 11 rebounds, and the Trail Blazers extended their winning streak to a season-high six games with a 118-98 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Friday night.
Portland took charge with a 16-0 run in the third quarter that pushed the lead to 21 points. The Hawks pulled within 10 early in the fourth on Trae Young’s runner, but Zach Collins’ follow dunk and Jake Layman’s difficult three-point play made it 97-82 to remove any remaining suspense.
Lillard, with his 26th game of at least 30 points, outplayed Young, who scored 18 of his 26 points in the first quarter.
“I thought we did a good job of limiting them to one shot,” Lillard said about the second half. “They weren’t getting second and third opportunities. We were physical. We recognized actions and took stuff away. Our presence was there in the second half.”
The Blazers have won nine of 10 and are in third place in the Western Conference.
Atlanta’s three-game winning streak, tying its longest of the season, was snapped.
“Shots weren’t falling,” Young said. “We hit nine 3s tonight. We usually hit a little bit more. I didn’t shoot the ball well. I started off early, but my shots weren’t going in after that first quarter.”
Aminu has double-doubles in consecutive games for the first time this season. He had 12 points and 11 boards against Chicago on Wednesday.
Young and Lillard each had 18 points in the first quarter. It marked Lillard’s highest total in the first quarter this season and tied a season high for Young.