NBA

Lillard demands 'respect' as resurgent Portland star hits out after long-awaited win

By Sports Desk December 18, 2021

Damian Lillard vented frustration at coverage of his struggles after scoring a season-high 43 points to help the Portland Trail Blazers get back to winning ways.

Lillard torched the Charlotte Hornets as Portland ended a seven-game losing streak by winning 125-116 on Friday night. Lillard was 12 of 19 from the field as he posted the 40th 40-point game of his career.

Yet even after his big performance on Friday night, Lillard is still shooting career-worst numbers this season – just 39.5 per cent from the field and 31.6 per cent from three-point range after 24 games.

He is averaging 22.8 points per game, his lowest since the 2014-15 season, and this was just the fourth time in this campaign that he has registered 30 points or more. Those healthier hauls have all come in his last nine games, pointing to a significant upswing in Lillard's form.

When his demeanour in a post-game news conference was called into question, Lillard said: "I'm happy we won a game. I felt happy throughout the game and in the locker room, but when I come here and I gotta answer questions, and I've done so much in my career, specifically in Portland, I've given everything, I've never made an excuse, I've never disrespected any of y'all.

"I've never not given you guys time. Just when our team is going through it, I'm in a little bit of a struggle, and I see certain people not giving me that same respect. So that's why I'm a little irritated in here, but with our team I'm happy with what we did. I still come in here and give that same time, but I don't appreciate it man. It'll be handled that way going forward."

Lillard, 31, has spent his entire NBA career with Portland and is a six-time All-Star, posting a career-high 30.0 points per game in the 2019-20 season.

He felt understandable relief at the Trail Blazers finding a way to end their slump. They are 12-18 so far for this campaign.

"I tried to come out and play with pace, be in attack mode, and that was just it," Lillard said. "It was the same situation as in the last few games; we just need to get a win and tonight was that night.

"You lose so many in a row, things start to do downhill. This was a big win for us, and we needed to feel good about something and getting a win usually does that.

"Now we need to roll with it. We've got to make it turn into two and three, pick ourselves up and dig ourselves out of the hole we've put ourselves in and tonight was a good start.

"It's easier when you're making shots as a team, but it was good for us to play with that energy and swagger for a long time and get a win against a good team."

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