NBA

Lillard and Trail Blazers staying grounded after upstaging LeBron's Lakers

By Sports Desk August 19, 2020

Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers are not getting carried away with their win over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of the Western Conference first-round series.

Lillard starred as the eighth-seeded Trail Blazers upstaged top seeds the Lakers 100-93 in the NBA playoffs at Walt Disney World Resort on Tuesday.

Featuring in the postseason after topping the Memphis Grizzlies in the play-in game, the Trail Blazers drew first blood against the Lakers thanks to Lillard's game-high 34 points in Orlando, Florida.

The teams were locked at 89-89 before the Trail Blazers – led by Lillard – powered past LeBron James and the Lakers, who made their first playoff appearance since 2013.

Lillard, however, refused to dwell on the victory as the Trail Blazers look ahead to Game 2 on Thursday.

"I thought it was just a great effort by the team," Lillard, who nailed six three-pointers, told reporters. "From the start of the game, we came out with the focus and energy we needed against the best team in the league.

"We played together. We shared the ball. We didn't have any major lulls. Obviously they made some runs, but when it got down the stretch, we kept our heads down and kept working. We made the plays on both ends to pull out the win.

"But we know it's only going to get harder from here. It's only one game. The job is far away from being done. But I'm proud of our effort in getting the first one."

The Trail Blazers have been red hot since the 2019-20 NBA season resumed in July after the league was postponed in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Responding to a question suggesting Portland could afford to lose a game and still be in a healthy position against the Lakers, Lillard replied: "That doesn't make sense, coming into a game thinking you can lose a game. You come into every game trying to win it.

"The key to the playoffs is the first team to win four games. I don't think it makes any sense to ever come into a game saying we can lose. You always want to try to extend your lead in a series. That's what our mentality is.

"We know it's only going to get harder from here. They're a great team, the number one seed. I'm not concerned with our mentality going forward. The leaders of the team… the team is going to go as we go as far as the mentality."

Lillard also heaped praise on Trail Blazers team-mate Hassan Whiteside, who finished with five blocks to help stifle James, Anthony Davis and the Lakers.

"He was big time," Lillard said. "We knew coming into this series, once we got there, they have a lot of guys who are accurate in the paint.

"They're big in there, so we need our big guys to have a presence in the paint at both ends of the floor.

"I thought tonight now he protected the paint, blocked shots, changed shots, rebounded. He had a positive impact on the game. Without him out there, we don't win. We need that type of effort."

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