You do not transform from a 6-foot-2 star point guard out of Oakland, Calif., to emerge after four years at Weber State as a lottery pick and flourish as a max contract two-time All-Star with a rap career on the side without considerable confidence, so keep that in mind about one Damian Lillard.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that, when asked on CSN Northwest’s broadcast of Portland’s regular-season finale on Wednesday, “Blazers in six or seven?” the point guard responded, “Blazers in six.”
— CSN Northwest (@CSNNW) April 13, 2017
Sure, the star-studded, top-seeded Golden State Warriors cruised to 67 wins sans former MVP Kevin Durant for seven weeks, and they’re a gargantuan first-round hurdle for the eighth-seeded Blazers to climb, but don’t tell me you want any player on your team who enters a playoff series thinking he’s got no path to victory. Honestly, I wouldn’t blame him if he said, “Blazers sweep,” if given the option.
From the outside, it might seem like the Blazers have no shot against the Warriors in their series that starts on Sunday, but Lillard actually has the proper perspective for anyone on the inside looking out.
“We’re not going into the playoffs saying, ‘Hey we made it, let’s bow out gracefully and be happy with what we did,'” Lillard told The Oregonian after Portland clinched a playoff berth earlier in the week. “We’re going in there to take a swing. We’re coming in there to try and shock the world.”
Added ultra-confident teammate Evan Turner of the two-time defending Western Conference champs: “We comprehend who they are and everything. But at the same time, underdog or whatever, I don’t think we really feel any pressure. I don’t really see any type of fear coming from the locker room.”
We are only a year removed from the Blazers being one overtime loss in Game 4 away from tying the conference semifinals against the Warriors, albeit in a series featuring Stephen Curry for only two of the five games, but hey — who’s to say weird stuff can’t happen, right? I mean, these Blazers did add Jusuf Nurkic, who’s been a revelation, and the “Bosnian Beast” might be back for the playoffs.
History would suggest Portland faces the longest of odds, considering only five No. 8 seeds have ever knocked off a top seed in the NBA playoffs — and only three have done so in a seven-game series (the Warriors over the Mavericks in 2007, Grizzlies over the Spurs in 2011 and 76ers over the Bulls in 2012). We should also mention the Warriors swept the Blazers in their four-game regular-season series.
And yeah, Charles Barkley might be the only one outside Portland who thinks the Blazers have a shot:
But none of this should prevent Lillard from entering this series with anything less than full swag. Besides, “Blazers in six” is tamer bulletin-board material than what Lillard gave Golden State in October, when he was asked on SiriusXM’s NBA Radio about Durant’s decision to chase rings with the Warriors:
“I might have too much pride for that or be too much of a competitor where I couldn’t bring myself to do it, but it also makes it more fun. You get to take a monster down and that’s always fun.”
The Warriors, of course, are now welcome to add Lillard’s coerced playoff prediction to being dubbed “a monster” and use both as motivation, which might not work out too well for Portland. But I, for one, am sure glad somebody had the stones to add some intrigue to an otherwise predictable series.
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