DAMIAN LILLARD scored a career-high 61 points and assisted Hassan Whiteside on what proved to be the game-winning dunk in the Portland Trail Blazers’ 134-131 defeat of the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday in the Orlando area.

On a night in which Lillard also became the first player in Portland franchise history to score 50-plus points in consecutive games, the guard’s most critical play may have come on defense.

Lillard drew an offensive line on Dallas’ Trey Burke with 4.5 seconds remaining and the Trail Blazers (34-39) leading 132-131. Moments after Burke bumped Lillard down to the floor, he dished to a wide-open Dorian Finney-Smith, whose made corner 3-pointer was waved off.

Portland took the lead with 59.1 seconds left when Lillard dished his eighth assist of the night for two of Whiteside’s eight points. The basket marked the culmination of a back-and-forth fourth quarter in which neither team led by more than five points.

Helping Lillard shoulder the offensive load was Carmelo Anthony, who scored 26 points on 10-of-17 shooting from the floor and 3-of-5 from behind the 3-point line. Anthony and Lillard combined for 12 of Portland’s 15 made 3-pointers.

Dallas (43-31) shot a blistering 20-of-44 from 3-point range, with Kristaps Porzingis going 7-of-9 en route to a team-high 36 points before fouling out.

All five Mavericks starters scored in double-figures. Luka Doncic added 25 points with 10 assists and eight rebounds for the Mavericks, while Tim Hardaway Jr. finished with 24 points. Finney-Smith finished with 15 and Burke scored 12 points with nine assists.

Maxi Kleber added 12 points off the bench.

Despite its offensive balance and edge from behind the 3-point arc, 17 turnovers for Dallas against just eight from the Trail Blazers helped make the difference. Anthony pitched in on defense with a pair of steals.

Portland also dominated the glass with a 48-37 edge.

With the win, the Trail Blazers remain ahead of the Phoenix Suns, who won earlier on Tuesday over Philadelphia, to remain in position for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot. A Portland win against Brooklyn on Thursday lands Portland in the play-in game at the Orlando-area bubble. — Reuters