While there’s still much to be sorted out, if the Portland Trailblazers were to meet the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the NBA playoffs, Damian Lillard is confident his squad could take down the Western Conference’s best.
During an interview with Vanity Fair, Lillard revealed his high level of confidence in his squad if it came down to a No. 1 vs. No. 8 matchup between the Blazers and Lakers.
“Of course,” Lillard responded when asked if he would want to face the Lakers in a first-round series. “I think we could beat them.”
To even make that a reality, the 29-37 Blazers will need to do some work in the NBA’s seeding games, which were described in an official release from the league about the format for the season restart in Orlando next month.
“The season restart would begin with eight ‘seeding games’ for each returning team and include the possibility of a play-in tournament for the eighth and final playoff seed in each conference depending on combined records across regular-season games and seeding games. Once the 16-team playoff field is set, the NBA Playoffs would proceed in a traditional conference-based format with four rounds and best-of-seven series in each round. The NBA Finals would end no later than Oct. 12.”
Damian Lillard Dominated in Blazers Lone Win Against Lakers This Season
The Lakers took two of three from the Blazers this season, but in the lone Portland win Lillard dominated. The five-time All-Star dropped 48 on the Lakers as part of a torrid month where he averaged 35.7 points.
Lakers star LeBron James has been very complimentary of Lillard in the past, saying he uses the thought that he’s underappreciated or underestimated as motivation to churn out big performances.
“I like how he uses that. If you’re a true basketball [mind] — there’s not a lot of true basketball minds and people that understand the game — but for me, I understand it. I know,” James said in 2018. “Give me Damian Lillard. I’ll show you how appreciated he’ll be.”
Lillard has been equally complimentary of James, backing him for this season’s MVP over Giannis Antetokounmpo.
“If you said either one, I feel like nobody would have a problem with it. But me personally, this season, I think it’s LeBron,” Lillard told ESPN. “They’re the No. 1 team in the West. They’ve been consistent all year long. For him to be at the age he’s at, with the amount of miles that he has on his body, how often he’s talked about, the pressure that they put on him in every little thing that he does, and the level that he’s performing at—I feel like he’s the MVP.”
Blazers Dangerous but Have Long Odds to Beat Lakers
Lillard makes the Blazers a dangerous team, as he demonstrated in last year’s playoffs when he led Portland to the Western Conference Finals. And Portland has a solid supporting cast around him in CJ McCollum, Carmelo Anthony and Hassan Whiteside.
The Blazers are also expected to insert big man Jusuf Nurkic back into the lineup as well and traded for veteran wing Trevor Ariza.
Is it enough to beat the Lakers though? Probably not, as the odds show. The Lakers have the best odds to win the title at +200 behind James and Anthony Davis, while the Blazers are +12,500, per Odds Shark.
The Blazers should worry about making the playoffs before thinking about the Lakers. They’re 3.5 games back of Memphis and also have to compete with New Orleans, Sacramento, Phoenix and San Antonio.