OAKLAND – Oakland native Damian Lillard had a hard time letting this one go.
The Oakland product and an early frontrunner to earn Rookie of the Year honors with the Portland Trailblazers once had season tickets to Golden State Warriors games.
But on Friday night, Lillard fell just short of ripping a victory away from his hometown team as Golden State outlasted Portland 103-97 despite a career-high 37 points from the local kid.
“It’s bittersweet because everything I did was for us to win the game,” Lillard said. “I got caught up in just competing and trying to win the game.”
Lillard scored 17 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter and connected on a total of seven three-pointers on the night. He added six rebounds and four assists.
In the end, even the heroics of Lillard weren’t enough to lift the Trail Blazers. Despite No. 6 overall pick’s late surge, the Warriors snapped the Trail Blazers’ four-game win streak. With the win, Golden State ended its trend of two consecutive losses.
Golden State led by as many as 20 points before Lillard led Portland to within reach late in the fourth quarter. The rookie stuck a 27-foot three-pointer with 24.1 seconds remaining to cut the lead to 100-97 before Curry made two free throws to put the game out of reach.
“I’m happy we had such a big lead because when Lillard started doing what Lillard did we had ourselves a cushion,” said David Lee, who scored a Warriors game-high 24 points and added 10 rebounds for the Warriors.
The Warriors were in control from the start. The Trail Blazers, in the second night of a back-to-back after defeating the Miami Heat in Portland on Thursday night, came out flat and shot just 23.4 percent in the first half as Golden State led 50-35 at halftime.
After being outscored 116-62 in the paint in the Warriors last two games, both losses to the Los Angeles Clippers then Memphis Grizzlies, Golden State outscored Portland 48-32 in the paint.
“This is preparing us; where we expect to go,” Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. “In those games, you’re going to have to find ways to stop special players and this is a great preparation for us.”
While a focus may have been on Portland’s star guard, it was the play of Oakland’s more veteran star guard, Stephen Curry, who helped answer for the Warriors. Curry finished with 22 points and 12 assists.
Curry, a player who remembers his return to his home area of Charlotte against the Bobcats, said the first time playing back at home is always a thrill. It was Curry’s fifth game of the season with 20-plus points and 10-plus assists.
“Obviously if you play well it means even more,” Curry said. “I am sure he will remember this – I’m sure he wanted to get the win as well – but this is definitely for him a great experience.
“He was just trying to do whatever it took to get the win. He was feeling good. It seemed like every time he got a good look, and even when he didn’t get a good look, it was going up and going in.”
Lillard was the lone member of the Trail Blazers to have a good shooting night. Portland finished at 38 percent from the field on the night. Without Lillard, the rest of Portland shot just 29 percent (20-for-67) on the night.
The Trail Blazers shot 43 three-pointers, setting a new Warriors franchise record of an opponent, breaking the record of 37 by Portland in 2007.
“I think that we were flat as a team, I just started to make shots,” Lillard said. “The whole team put forth the effort. I just happened to start making shots and they kept coming to me.”
The faction of grouped-together opposing fans in the crowd looked out of place, like something seen at a college – or even high school – game. A small fraction of fans wearing Portland red sat behind the Trail Blazers bench, standing and cheering every time Lillard made a play.
The Oakland High School product felt the support of family and friends as he finished with his career-high in points. At one point, after Lillard connected on a deep three-pointer that cut the Warriors lead to single digits early in the fourth quarter, members of Portland’s bench stood on chairs and waived to the gathering of fans.
“It was a great feeling for me just because at every point coming out of a timeout or halftime, walking out on the court, I noticed a new face that I knew just from being from Oakland,” Lillard said. “It felt good to be in front of all of them and play in front of them.”
The crowd of friends, family and members of his church sat near the Portland baseline during pregame warm-ups in support of the city’s youngest source of NBA pride. Lillard is showing more promise as one of the league’s next stars, a sharp shooter with a quick release and a knack for the big play.
“It was great just to see a lot of familiar faces out there, a lot of people I grew up with who I came across just being in Oakland growing up as a kid,” said Lillard, who was named all-league at Oakland High both his junior and senior seasons.
“Just to see that they’re doing well and they came out to support me. It felt good to see how much I impact people that were around me growing up.”
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