D’Angelo Russell ‘poked the bear and you seen what happened …
— ESPNLosAngeles (@ESPNLosAngeles) January 11, 2017
Damian Lillard was struggling. By the 6:05 mark in Tuesday’s tilt against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center, the Portland Trail Blazers’ star guard had shot just 3 of 14 from the field, and his team led a young Lakers squad by only one point.
But then Lillard and Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell engaged in a war of words and had to be separated. Each player was assessed a technical foul. And from then on, Lillard scorched the Lakers, scoring 13 points — including 11 in a row in the third quarter — while his team stretched its lead, which reached 23 points, on the way to a 108-87 blowout win.
“[Russell] poked the bear and you seen what happened the rest of the game,” Lillard, who finished with 20 points on 7-of-21 shooting, told reporters after the game, according to audio posted by the Trail Blazers’ team reporter.
Lillard said that confrontation with Russell “absolutely” ignited his strong play in a game-turning third quarter in which the Lakers scored a season-low 12 points on 5-of-23 shooting.
“As far as that situation, since last game, he’s been doing little slick elbows,” Lillard said of Russell. “And I play the game clean. I’m from Oakland. I ain’t with that extra stuff and nobody can just do what they want to me.
“I got called for a foul to start the third quarter for reaching in, but when I reached in the only reason there was contact is because his elbow came up again. After he blocked my shot, I was walking to my spot, and I felt like he went out of his way to get that elbow in there again. And I told him, ‘That ain’t gonna fly.’ And I wasn’t interested in anything else that was said after that. We ain’t going to do it on the court so we’ll be in the back and whatever happens, happens.”