Lillard’s Big Night Lifts Trail Blazers over Warriors

Los Angeles (AFP) – Damian Lillard scored a career playoff-high 40 points and handed out 10 assists Saturday as the Portland Trail Blazers beat reigning NBA champions Golden State 120-108 to narrow the gap in their playoff series.

Al-Farouq Aminu collected 23 points and 10 rebounds and C.J. McCollum added 22 points for the Trail Blazers, who trimmed the deficit in the best-of-seven Western Conference second-round series to 2-1.

The Trail Blazers will try to level the series when they host game four on Monday.

Lillard connected on 14 of 27 shots from the field, including eight of 13 from three-point range.

“We were just a lot more aggressive, we played a lot smarter down the stretch than we did the last game,” Lillard said. “I think tonight we kept doing what was working for us.”

Aminu was eight-for-nine from the field, making four three-pointers for a Blazers team that withstood a career playoff-high of 37 points from Golden State’s Draymond Green, who also pulled down nine rebounds and dished out eight assists.

Klay Thompson added 35 points for the Warriors, who were again without injured star Stephen Curry.

The young Portland team kept their nerve in the face of a strong start from Golden State. Lillard scored 25 points and Aminu contributed 11 points in the second quarter and the Blazers took a 58-46 lead into halftime.

Thompson had 24 in the half for the Warriors, who were outscored 36-18 in the second period.

The Warriors used a 9-0 scoring run to pull within 105-94 with 5:25 remaining, but Portland scored the next five points and the Warriors never got within 12 the rest of the way.

“I thought we got out-worked,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr. “Even though we had a couple of guys who scored a lot of points we didn’t get the flow or rhythm we needed to play at a high level.”

There was some good news for the Warriors as Kerr said Curry, nursing a sprained right knee, had his first “actual basketball” workout and came out of it well.

Whether that means Curry might be ready to play in game four, Kerr didn’t know.

“We’ll see how it goes (Sunday),” Kerr said. “We’ll put him into a three-on-three (workout) and see how he does.”

– Lowry lifts Raptors –

Kyle Lowry scored 33 points to help the Toronto Raptors overcome the loss of center Jonas Valanciunas and beat the Heat 95-91 in Miami.

Lowry, who struggled with his shooting in the first two games of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference second-round series, connected on 11 of 19 attempts from the floor as the Raptors took a 2-1 series lead.

“I felt it was a matter of time before my shots would go in,” Lowry said. “I just wanted to be aggressive. I’ve got great friends and great mentors in my life. And every last one of them told me to keep playing  — stop fighting myself and continue to grind it out.”

Lowry was three-of-three from three-point range in his 15-point third quarter. He scored 14 points in the fourth period when his jump shot over Heat veteran Dwyane Wade with 31 seconds to play gave the Raptors a three-point lead.

Miami’s Joe Johnson missed a three-pointer with 16.8 seconds left that would have tied the score.

Miami was led by Wade, who scored 18 of his 38 points in the third period.

He had 11 points in the fourth quarter, but missed a contested three-pointer with 9.5 seconds left with Miami down by four.

Both teams saw key big men depart early with injuries.

Heat center Hassan Whiteside reinjured his right knee with 10:53 left in the second quarter. He had hurt the knee in the series opener but continued to play.

This time, Whiteside, who led the NBA in blocked shots this season, left the game with six points and no rebounds in eight minutes.

Toronto’s Lithuanian center Valanciunas, who averaged 19.5 points and 13 rebounds in the first two games, had 16 points and 12 rebounds when he sprained his right ankle with 8:53 left in the third.

“They lost their rim protector (Whiteside) and we lost ours,” said Raptors coach Dwane Casey. “We’ll see what happens (going forward).”


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