The Portland Trail Blazers' first possession of Sunday afternoon's contest against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center was as acrobatic as they come.
All-Star point guard Damian Lillard, who has torched the Nets his entire career, drove to the hoop, threw up a circus shot, and drew the foul as the ball sailed into the basket. A section of Nets fans along the baseline was amazed at 'Dame's' composure to make the shot and showed respect with a few claps.
Lillard made his free throw and ran back on defense and Nets forward Bojan Bogdanovic answered him with a three-point play of his own. The degree of difficulty on Lillard's heave, however, made his play a highlight reel special.
"Damian has a really good grasp of his game, and where he can evolve," Trail Blazers' coach Terry Stotts said after the game.
The basket was part of a 10-point, four-assist, one-rebound quarter for the 26-year-old point guard. Entering Sunday's game, Lillard boasted the fourth-best points per game (28.7) average in the NBA. The former Rookie of the Year started the second quarter on the bench but entered with four minutes left to add six more points, finishing the half with 16.
A strong third quarter for Portland in which they outscored the Nets 29-20 limited Lillard's involvement in the second half as he finished with 18 points, five assists, and four rebounds.
While Lillard got the crowd into it early, C.J. McCollum quickly took over the scoring for Portland. The 25-year-old finished with 33 points -- eclipsing his previous season-high of 31 in a 122-120 win over the Sacramento Kings on November 11. He padded his stat line with five assists and four rebounds.
McCollum was helped by his strong six-for-10 shooting from beyond the arc. Even with his five personal fouls, he was the center of Portland's offensive onslaught.
"I saw him make four three-pointers (chuckles)," Stotts said. "It allowed us good ball movement."
Rip City Bench
The unsung hero of Portland's victory was the strong contribution from the reserves. Meyers Leonard (14 points), Allen Crabbe (14 points) and Evan Turner (19 points) accounted for 47 of Rip City's 58 points off the bench.
The Trail Blazers continue their east coast swing with a Tuesday night matchup against the New York Knicks.