Damian Lillard hit the signature shot of his career against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Now, the Portland Trail Blazers star is set to reach a major milestone against the Thunder.
Lillard enters Monday’s game against the Thunder in Oklahoma City — the first of two games in three days between the teams — needing just 21 points to pass Clyde Drexler to become the leading scorer in franchise history.
“He’s not going to do it just to do it,” Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said. “It’s going to come the right way, playing the right type of ball. Barring anything crazy happening it’s going to be very soon the way he’s playing. He’s playing at an extremely high level.”
In Saturday’s 107-95 win in Houston, Lillard scored 25 to become the 77th player in NBA history to reach 18,000 career points.
“I owe a lot of people credit for this being a possibility and I’ve got to thank God for allowing me to be healthy for the majority of my career and to stay clear and stay clean mentally as well,” Lillard said.
Lillard has scored 20-plus points in 23 of 34 career games against the Thunder. That includes his 50-point performance of the 2019 first-round playoff series when Lillard hit a 37-footer to eliminate Oklahoma City.
Drexler played 867 career games with the Trail Blazers. Lillard’s next will be his 730th career game.
“It’s just a testament to all of the hard work and dedication that he’s put in. And belief,” Billups said. “This is a guy who rarely misses games. And when he does miss a game it’s because he’s actually injured. You have to have that type of commitment and dedication to be able to go get those type of numbers every single night when you know all they talk about is stopping you. It’s an incredible feat.”
Portland comes into Monday’s game having won six of its last eight games, including two of its first three to begin their current six-game road trip.
The Trail Blazers have won 10 games away from home this season. Only Boston has won more road games this season.
Oklahoma City is coming off a 115-109 win over Memphis on Saturday in a game in which it was without its two top scorers — Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey.
Gilgeous-Alexander missed the game with a lower back contusion. Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said he didn’t expect Gilgeous-Alexander to miss much time.
“He’s been dealing with it and playing through it for some time now,” Daigneault said.
Giddey was out with a non-COVID illness. Darius Bazley has missed back-to-back games for the same reason.
Oklahoma City has also been without Ousmane Dieng, who has missed the last six games with a right wrist fracture, and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, who has missed the last three with a right ankle sprain.
“I think everybody deals with it,” Daigneault said. “We haven’t dealt with it to the extreme that other teams have to this point.”
Monday’s game is the first of four between the teams this season.
The Thunder swept last season’s four-games series. All four meetings occurred after Lillard was lost with a season-ending abdominal injury.
–Field Level Media