Two of the NBA’s most electric scorers will be in the spotlight when Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers make their only stop in Atlanta on Friday to face the Trae Young-led Hawks.
Lillard scored 71 points on Sunday against the Houston Rockets and poured in 41 on Wednesday in a 121-110 loss to New Orleans. He is averaging 32.3 points, third best in the league entering play on Thursday, with 7.1 assists.
Young has scored 30-plus points in the last three games, including 31 in Tuesday’s 119-116 loss to Washington. Young is averaging 27.1 points, which ranks 10th in the league entering play on Thursday, and 10.1 assists. He scored 56 against Portland last season.
But it was backcourt teammate Dejounte Murray who had a career performance against the Blazers in the first meeting. Murray scored a career-high 40 points to go along with eight rebounds, seven assists and zero turnovers. He is the first Hawk to post those numbers since the 1977-78 season, according to Elias Sports.
This is the second meeting between the two clubs this season. Portland won 129-125 on its home court on Jan. 30. Lillard scored 42 points in that meeting and has scored 30-plus points in his last five matchups against Atlanta. The Hawks have won the last three games played in Atlanta, including 122-113 last season.
The game is important to the playoff hopes of both teams.
Portland is 1 1/2 games behind New Orleans for the No. 10 spot in the Western Conference and a chance to get in the play-in tournament. The Blazers missed an opportunity to make up ground when they lost to the Pelicans.
Portland has lost four of its last five games and six of its last nine. The Blazers begin a six-game East Coast road trip against Atlanta.
“I think right now a lot of these games are not going in our favor,” Lillard said. “A lot of times it eventually comes back and you start to win some of these games. That’s why I feel like it’s possible for us, some of these games start swinging back in our favor.”
Atlanta is No. 8 in the Eastern Conference and stands three games behind No. 6 Brooklyn for the final playoff spot. This will be the final game of a four-game post-All-Star Game homestand for the Hawks, who play their next four games on the road.
Atlanta will be playing its second game with head coach Quin Snyder at the helm. Snyder was in place on Wednesday but left many of the game decisions to assistant Joe Prunty, who coached the team to two victories after Nate McMillan’s firing.
“There are things we can get better at and there are some things that I can do to help us as well. A lot of different things that went on that we can pay attention to and work on them,” Snyder said. “Big picture, I thought we really competed. I liked how aggressive we were shooting the ball.”
Portland got Anfernee Simons back from a right ankle sprain that had caused him to miss three games. But Simons tweaked the same ankle in the third quarter against New Orleans and had to be taken to the locker room. He will be a game-day decision.
–Field Level Media