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Blazers welcome Damian Lillard back with tribute video, upset win over Bucks

In Sports
February 01, 2024
PORTLAND, OREGON - JANUARY 31: Damian Lillard #0 of the Milwaukee Bucks acknowledges the crowd during his return against the Portland Trail Blazers at Moda Center on January 31, 2024 in Portland, Oregon. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Damian Lillard’s return to Portland wound up being less than triumphant on Wednesday.

In his first game at Moda Center as an opponent, Lillard saw his Milwaukee Bucks lose 119-116 to the rebuilding Blazers in an emotional night all around.

There were, of course, hugs and a tribute video recognizing the contributions of Lillard, the Blazers’ all-time leading scorer. From his Rookie of the Year campaign to emerge as the new face of the franchise to all of his Dame Time™ game-winners, it will take more than a moderately acrimonious trade standoff for Lillard to not be welcome in Portland.

Blazers fans gave him a minute-long standing ovation as he was introduced:

Lillard landed with the Bucks after his future interests started diverging from the Blazers, who went 33-49 last season and opted to use the No. 3 overall draft pick on a young point guard in Scoot Henderson. Lillard was widely expected to form a super duo with Giannis Antetokounmpo, but the Bucks’ season has been something of a mixed bag.

The team’s record is 32-16, yes, but significant defensive issues caused the team to fire head coach Adrian Griffin and bring Doc Rivers back into the coaching ranks after a half-season with ESPN.

Wednesday was Rivers’ second game as head coach and it looked like the Bucks still had some growing pains to work out against the 15-33 Blazers. Lillard didn’t have his best game, finishing with 25 points on 9-of-23 shooting (3-of-13 from 3-point range), seven assists, six rebounds and four turnovers.

The Bucks managed to erase a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter, but Anfernee Simons hit a game-winner to give the home crowd a satisfying win.

Simons posted 24 points on 10-of-19 shooting with five assists and three rebounds.

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