Fifties night for McCollum
The Trail Blazers have been on a pretty good roll, but nothing like the one CJ McCollum was on Wednesday night at Moda Center.
Portland has won four in a row and seven of eight after breezing to a wire-to-wire 124-108 thumping of Chicago Wednesday night at Moda Center.
As the once-famous Paris Hilton used to say, that's hot.
But against the decidedly shorthanded Bulls, McCollum was scorched earth.
Damian Lillard's running mate was All-Star-worthy and then some, bombing in a career-high 50 points, including 28 in the first quarter — a franchise record for any quarter.
McCollum was 18 for 25 from the field, 6 for 9 from 3-point range and 8 for 8 from the free-throw line in a sterling 29-minute show for the streaking Blazers (29-22), who shot a season-high .561 from the field.
With Portland safely ahead 102-75 after three quarters, coach Terry Stotts wisely chose to sit McCollum for the fourth quarter, despite a few "We want CJ!" chants from sellout throng of 19,422.
"I was thinking, 'I hope I don't have to go in,'" said McCollum, who received a standing ovation after the first and third quarters. "That would mean we weren't playing the way we were supposed to be playing.
"There was a lot of love out there tonight, and I appreciate it."
When Lillard was asked what he thought about his backcourt mate's performance, he whistled.
"That was crazy," said Lillard, who set Portland's single-game scoring record with 59 points against Utah last season. "It was an off night for everybody else."
Lillard took only nine shots, making five and scoring 13 points with seven assists in 30 minutes. Nobody else had as many attempts except McCollum, whose points came rather economically — 25 tries, 50 counters.
"I knew it in the first quarter," Lillard said. "I saw him get some looks. Once he hit a couple of those tough ones, I was like, 'I recognize that feeling.' I saw the rhythm he was playing with. At that point, it was my job to make sure he got the ball in his hands as many times as possible. He just kept rolling.
"Some people can keep going and going and going. CJ is one of those people. We got away from running sets. He just scored. It was a great performance."
McCollum said there was no tip-off to his historic game. He got to bed in the wee hours after the Blazers' 104-96 win over the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center Tuesday night.
"I was a little more tired than usual," he said. "My pregame meal was like 1:15, because I wasn't really hungry. It was just like a normal day."
McCollum made 11 of his first 12 shots and finished 11 for 14 from the field, 4 for 5 from 3-point range and 3 for 3 from the free-throw line in the first quarter.
"The ball went in a lot," he said. "I was scoring within the flow of the offense. Just attacking, and the next you know, I had twenty-something."
McCollum had 32 points at halftime, then went for 18 points in a prolific third quarter.
"I looked up and I was like, 'I can get to 40,'" said McCollum, who scored 54 points in his first college start as a sophomore at Lehigh. "And then Ed (Davis) was like, 'No, you need to get 50.' And 'Dame' was like, 'Get 50.' And I was like, 'OK, I'll get 50 then if you guys want me to.'
"It's a lot of fun. It's like seeing all your work come out for everyone else. All the work you put in behind closed doors. It's nice to see it pay off. It's good to see results."
Only seven Blazers have 50 points in a game.
'A lot of the elite players score 50 points," McCollum said. "It shows that you're a unique scorer and have a lot of ability to do it in three quarters.
"It's a credit to our staff for helping develop me, hard work, teammates sharing, setting screens, sacrificing a lot of stuff throughout the season. A lot of times they don't get the credit they deserve. I score 50 points, but there are a lot of guys not taking shots, and trying to get me the ball. It's a credit to everyone."
Stotts had trouble finding the correct adjective to describe McCollum's game.
"It was a very impressive outing," the coach said. "What he did in the first quarter was amazing. It's nice to enjoy those type of nights."
Like Lillard, backup point guard Shabazz Napier was moved to defer to McCollum at the offensive end.
"You only can marvel at stuff like that," Napier said. "When a guy gets it going like that, you want him to just keep shooting. CJ gets hot sometimes, but tonight, every shot looked good.
"At that point, your job is easier. All you have to do is play defense and try to get that guy open shots. It's exciting. No one usually achieves stuff like that."
NOTES: Portland's next action is Friday at Toronto to begin a three-game road trip that includes stops at Boston and Detroit. "If we continue to play how we've been playing on both ends of the floor, we'll have a chance in every game," Lillard said. ... McCollum's previous career scoring high was 43 points. ... The previous Blazer record for scoring in a quarter was 26 by Lillard twice, in 2014 and '17. ... Lillard has 9,988 career points. He needs 16 points against the Raptors to move ahead of Jim Paxson (10,003) and climb to sixth on the Blazers' list. ... The Blazers won their eighth straight game at Moda Center. ... Chicago was without its top three scorers — forwards Nikola Mirotic (sitting with a potential trade coming), Lauri Markannen (family reasons) and point guard Kris Dunn (concussion). ... Portland buried the Bulls early, sinking nine of its first 11 shots en route to a 23-2 lead in the first 5 1/2 minutes. It was 37-11 after McCollum knocked down his fourth straight 3-pointer and 43-19 after one quarter. The Blazers hit 17 of 23 shots in the quarter, including 5 of 8 3-pointers. They finished 15 for 32 (.469) from 3-point range. … The Blazers have recalled two-way guard Wade Baldwin from the NBA G League. The 6-4 Baldwin averaged 18.2 points, 4.9 assists and 4.5 rebounds in 17 games with the Texas Legends. Baldwin had spent the maximum time allowed in the G-League. "He'll be with us the rest of the season," Stotts said. ... Rookie forward Caleb Swanigan, who has been with the G League Canton Charge, will join the team for the game in Detroit. "It's time to bring him back," Stotts said.