PORTLAND, Ore. — Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum widely are recognized as one of the top backcourt pairings in the NBA, but against the Nets on Friday night at Moda Center, Lillard was a virtual one-man show, scoring a franchise-record 60 points while his partner was held to a mere eight.
On this night, it was the Nets’ tandem of Kyrie Irving and sixth man Spencer Dinwiddie who were the most effective pairing, scoring a combined 67 points as the Nets earned their first road win of the season, 119-115, and evened their record at 4-4.
Lillard tied Bernard King, who scored 60 for the Knicks on Christmas Day 1984, for the most points ever scored against the Nets. When it was over, Dinwiddie shook his head in wonder at what Lillard did but suggested that his Portland teammates had a tendency to stand around and watch. “We had to keep them in watch mode,” Dinwiddie said. “He had 60, but lucky for us, he needed 65.”
The Trail Blazers put together a 12-2 surge, including six points on layups by Lillard, to regain a 103-98 lead midway through the fourth period. The Nets shot 1-for-12 in that stretch and committed a turnover before Dinwiddie made a layup. Moments later, Dinwiddie fed Joe Harris for a corner three that tied it at 103 with 4:38 left.
Another three by Harris from the top of the arc gave the Nets a 106-103 lead at the 4:03 mark. Eventually, the Nets’ run extended to 17-2, punctuated by Irving’s right- wing three for a 115-105 lead with 1:41 to play.
Lillard then went on another tear, scoring seven straight points to cut the Blazers’ deficit to 115-112 with 40.4 seconds to go.
“We tried box-and-one, zone, blitz,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “We threw the kitchen sink at him. He would just make incredible shots. We kept saying, ‘He’s going to tire out eventually.’ It felt like he kept making shots, but I thought getting the ball out of his hands midway through the fourth quarter helped us.”
When Lillard got rolling again late, it seemed the Nets were in trouble, but they turned to their own superstar, Irving, who scored on an isolation play against rookie Anfernee Simons to give the Nets a four-point cushion with 17.8 seconds left.
“This was a great stepping stone for us to grow as a group,” Irving said. “That game could have gone either way, but down the stretch, we executed defensively. We ran the right plays in the fourth quarter. The last few practices really helped us.”
Dinwiddie had 34 points, becoming the first player other than Irving to lead the Nets in scoring, and Irving added 33 plus six assists.
Harris scored 14 points and Jarrett Allen had 12 points and nine rebounds for the Nets, who made 16 of 37 three-pointers (43.2 percent).
The only Blazers in double figures besides Lillard, who had a 19-for-33 shooting night, were Simons (15) and Hassan Whiteside (10 points, 15 rebounds).
Despite Lillard’s effort, the Nets were far better on defense than they had been all season. At halftime, they held a 54-49 lead despite Lillard’s 26 points. He shot 9-for-14 in the half, but his teammates shot 7-for-32.
Rookie Nic Claxton, who had eight points and six rebounds, played well at backup center in place of injured DeAndre Jordan, who sat out with a sprained left ankle.
But it was Dinwiddie who stepped up in the third period after the Blazers took a 59-56 lead. Atkinson quickly subbed Dinwiddie in favor of Caris LeVert, and he scored every Nets point in a 15-6 run that restored a 71-65 Nets lead and got them going.
“He got a lot in the flow of the offense,” Atkinson said. “Only a couple of plays were called. That was the old Spencer.”