Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard said he still wants to win an NBA championship with the franchise amid ongoing speculation over his future.

Lillard's future has dominated headlines following Portland's first-round playoff exit last season, the six-time All-Star continuing to be the subject of trade rumours involving the Philadelphia 76ers.

There has also been talk about the New York Knicks, but despite his frustration after another early postseason elimination in 2020-21, Lillard remains determined to deliver a title to Portland.

"We lose to Denver, they were you know unhealthy," Lillard told Complex News' Pierce Simpson. "I'm frustrated with the loss against Denver, so like we gotta do better.

"I've always said I want to play in Portland, I want to win in Portland, and I still feel that way. So if I'm saying we gotta do better, we gotta give ourselves a real chance, we can't get out the first round as we are, then we gotta get better.

"Not from a standpoint of threatening you all. It was like, if it comes down to me having to move on and do something different like then maybe that's what I have to do.

"But it was like, I haven't made that decision you know what I'm saying? But the fact remains that I would like to win a championship in Portland."

Lillard has been named an All-Star six times in his career and has helped the Blazers reach the playoffs in each of the past eight seasons.

 

It is his clutch shooting that has consistently kept Portland in the mix and, since he entered the league in 2012, only Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry (2,460) and James Harden of the Brooklyn Nets (2,125) have made more three-pointers than Lillard's 2,051.

Portland reached the Western Conference Finals in 2019 but were swept by Curry and the Warriors.

However, this season's exit at the hands of the Denver Nuggets in six games was their fourth first-round elimination in five seasons and led to the Blazers parting ways with head coach Terry Stotts. Chauncey Billups is the man now tasked with leading them to a first NBA Finals since 1992 and a first championship since 1977.

"You get to a position where it's like, 'Do I defend myself or do I just say nothing'. For me, when I'm just hearing stuff that's not the facts, I'm going to say I didn't say that," Lillard told The Athletic as he addressed the trade speculation.

"Some things I've just got to let it be said. I know what the truth is. I know where I stand. It's not my duty to make the public know … it's not my job to make them aware of what that is.

"It definitely has been different. I feel like I've handled it like I've handled everything. I just let it happen. I let people talk and I just stay true to who I am and I stand on that.

"If I say something, I stand on what I said. It is what it is, at this point."

"It's time to start looking like Team USA." That was the approach after a shock opening Olympics loss, Damian Lillard said, and the Games favourites delivered on Wednesday.

France had upset the United States in their first game, following up a 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup quarter-final triumph against the same opponents.

It was a defeat that will ensure doubts remain about Team USA's title aspirations for some time, but they at least got back to winning ways against modest opponents in Iran.

Lillard led the way in Wednesday's stand-out game, scoring 21 points in a dominant 120-66 success.

"I think after our loss to France we had two days between games and everybody just wanted to get back out there and get right," the Portland Trail Blazers guard said. "After that loss, we came together."

Lillard added of the Iran game: "I think we came out with a lot more urgency. Our energy was higher, we played at a faster pace. We were more aggressive, and we played like ourselves.

"We didn't come out here and think that it was just going to happen; we made it happen, and that's the way that we've got to play if we want to be successful in these Olympics."

'WE DON'T NEED HEROES'

Lillard's game-high tally – consisting entirely of seven three-pointers – was still significantly down on the 28.8 he averaged in the 2020-21 NBA regular season.

But that is exactly what coach Gregg Popovich wants from his team, knowing Devin Booker (16 points on Wednesday, 25.6 in the NBA), Jayson Tatum (14, 26.4), Zach LaVine (13, 27.4), Kevin Durant (10, 26.9) and Khris Middleton (10, 20.4) cannot all be the main men.

"Each of these guys scores 20 or 25 or 30 for their teams, and their teams depend on that every night," Popovich said. "We can't play like that, and so we don't.

"They appreciate each other and they know what their team-mates can do. They understand that good basketball is sharing the basketball.

"Everybody's, in a sense, kind of a role player now. We don't need heroes."

FRANCE TAKE TOP SPOT

Les Bleus built on their victory over Team USA and will now top Pool A ahead of the American side thanks to a 97-77 defeat of the Czech Republic.

France trailed 28-22 through the first quarter but turned the game around with a dominant second, settled 29-12 in their favour.

As against the United States, Evan Fournier topped the scoring charts, weighing in with 21 points on 62 per cent shooting.

BOOMERS BIGS WIN BATTLE

Australia also have two wins from two after edging Italy 86-83 on Wednesday, led by the frontcourt contributions of Jock Landale and Aron Baynes.

Landale led the Boomers with 18 points, but the pair crucially also finished with seven rebounds and a block apiece. Between them, they accounted for nine of the team's 16 vital offensive rebounds – Nick Kay added another four from the bench.

"Our bigs were huge today," said Utah Jazz wing Joe Ingles. "The rebounds, tip-outs – they got us a ton of extra possessions."

Elsewhere in Pool B, Nigeria's pre-tournament optimism might have given way after a second straight defeat that gives them a mountain to climb.

D'Tigers beat Team USA and Argentina in exhibitions but lost to Australia and then, on Wednesday, Germany – a 99-92 reverse despite 33 points from Jordan Nwora, fresh from playing a fringe role in the Milwaukee Bucks' run to the NBA title, including one minute and three points in the Finals.

Ash Barty has followed up her shock women's singles defeat by crashing out of the women's doubles after an epic clash with Czech pair Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova.

World number one Barty was stunned in the first round of the women's singles on Sunday by Spain's Sara Sorribes Tormo but teamed up with Storm Sanders in the doubles, with the Australian pair reaching the quarter-finals.

However, Krejcikova and Siniakova proved too strong in a three-set thriller, winning 3-6 6-4 10-7.

"You never quite have their measure,” Barty said. "It's disappointing but there's only a couple of points in that match, here and there and it's a different result.

"We did everything right today but just weren't able to win those big points when it mattered most."

Barty's medal hopes are now entirely focused on the mixed doubles, where she has partnered with John Peers.

Andy Murray's bid to become the first male to win four Olympic tennis medals ended with defeat to Croatia's Marin Cilic and Ivan Dogic in the men's doubles.

Murray, teaming up with Joe Salisbury, went down in two hours and 18 minutes after also winning the first set. The Croatian pair won 4-6 7-6 (7-2) 10-7.

The two-time Olympic gold medalist had withdrawn from the men's singles on Sunday due to a right quad injury, preferring to focus on playing doubles. TeamGB have not fielded a mixed doubles team.

 

TITMUS DOUBLES UP, LEDECKY LIFTS FOR GOLD

Ariarne Titmus backed up her women's 400m freestyle gold medal from Monday with another triumph, getting the better of rival Katie Ledecky to win the 200m free.

The 20-year-old Australian won the final ahead of Hong Kong's Siobhan Bernadette Haughey and Canada's Penny Oleksiak, while Ledecky finished back in fifth.

Ledecky would claim her sixth Olympic gold medal, triumphing in the women's 1500m free, with the US claiming a rare one-two as Erica Sullivan grabbed the silver ahead of Germany's Sarah Kohler.

After being beaten twice by Titmus earlier in the meet, Ledecky said: "I approach each race with a belief in myself. It's the attitude I've always had that's why I've been so successful. Anything can happen, [the attitude I go in with is] I can beat the world record in this race. 

Japan's Yui Ohashi won the women's 200m individual medley, Hungarian favourite Kristof Milak powered to victory in the men's 200m butterfly and Great Britain triumphed in the men's 4x200m freestyle relay.

 

STEERING ERROR COSTS GB IN ROWING

Australia claimed two gold medals in the rowing at Sea Forest Waterway as Great Britain were left to lament a wayward finish in the men's four final.

Australian quartet Alexander Purnell, Spencer Turrin, Jack Hargreaves and Alexander Hill won in 5:42:76 ahead of Romania and Italy who claimed silver and bronze respectively.

Italy's late charge almost saw a collision with Great Britain, who finished in fourth, after veering towards the neighbouring Italian boat, narrowly avoiding a clash of oars.

GB's Oliver Cook, who steered the men's coxless four, told BBC Sport: "I do (have the steering). I need to diagnose it but I feel I screwed up a bit and as I was closing in at the end and taking big strokes at the end going for the line I forgot the steering and that’s what cost us to be honest, cost us a medal."

Australia also won the women's four narrowly ahead of the Netherlands by 0:34 seconds, with Ireland claiming the bronze more than five seconds back.

Romania secured its first gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics by winning the women's double sculls final, while France triumphed in the men's equivalent.

The Netherlands and China triumphed in the men's and women's quadruple sculls finals respectively.

 

RADRADRA DREAMING OF FIJI SEVENS GOLD

New Zealand will take on 2016 gold medalists Fiji in the final of the men's rugby sevens on Wednesday evening.

Fiji went through to the gold medal match with a 26-14 triumph over Argentina, who will take on Great Britain for bronze.

New Zealand were too strong for the British, winning 29-7 in their semi-final, with two tries each to captain Scott Curry and Regan Ware.

Former NRL star Semi Radradra, who plays for Fiji after switching codes in 2017 and scored a try against Argentina, said: "Playing in the Olympics is a blessing for me. I never knew I would be here.

"I think it is everyone's highlight to win a gold medal in the Olympics. That is our aim and we try to give back to our people at home."

USA RESTORES CONFIDENCE IN BASKETBALL

Team USA restored some confidence following their first-up loss to France with a comprehensive 120-66 thrashing of Iran in men's basketball.

USA played fast throughout, wasting no time in offense, with Damian Lillard top scoring with 21 points, all from beyond the arc.

Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine had eight assists along with his 13 points while Devin Booker, who played in the NBA Finals last week, scored 16 points and had five rebounds and three steals.

USA head coach Gregg Popovich rotated his roster on and off the court, sharing minutes, as hos team piled on 38 points in the last quarter to round out a comprehensive victory.

In Group B, Germany defeated Nigeria 99-92 despite Jordan Nowra's 33-point haul.

Damian Lillard predicted Team USA's stunning defeat to France at the Tokyo Olympics would be portrayed as "the end of the world" but vowed the gold medal was still a target.

The Portland Trail Blazers star was one of a host of under-performing players in blue as Gregg Popovich's team were beaten 83-76 at the Saitama Super Arena.

France's shock win meant the US team's 25-game winning streak in men's basketball at the Olympics came to an end, raising doubts about their ability to challenge for glory at these Games.

Exhibition defeats to Australia and Nigeria ahead of the Olympics getting underway were red flags, but most expected the Americans to find match-winning form once the stakes were raised.

"I think we have a history of dominance and, maybe not always blowing people out, but we have a history of winning," Lillard said.

"It's not often that you see Team USA go out there and lose, especially to start. So, I think that's why a lot of people make it seem like the end of the world.

"But our job as professionals and this team, representing our country in these Olympics, we got to do what's necessary, and we still can accomplish what we came here to accomplish, and we got to make sure we keep that in mind."

 

Evan Fournier of the Boston Celtics starred with 28 points for France.

Fournier began the 2020-21 NBA season with the Orlando Magic and averaged 19.7 points per game, before that figure dropped to 13.0 for his outings with the Celtics following a trade in March.

Here he served up a reminder of how he can perform, and the US opposition suffered.

Lillard, who made just three of his 10 field-goal attempts, said: "You know who we see each night sometimes in the NBA, they are completely different when they play for their countries.

"They got more freedom, and the comfort level is obvious. So we put ourselves in a dogfight, and they made plays to win it."

Kevin Durant called it "a make-or-miss game".

"And we didn't hit the shots that we were supposed to late in the game in the fourth quarter, but I think we will be better next game," Durant, who scored 10 points, added.

There are Group A games to come for the Americans against the Czech Republic and Iran, and those could allow Durant, Lillard and co to find form ahead of the knock-out rounds.

Team USA have won the last three gold medals at the Olympics, and Bam Adebayo, who scored 12 points and had a team-high 10 rebounds, pointed to French desire for a slice of such glory as being a telling factor on Sunday.

"You can definitely tell they're tired of the USA winning," Adebayo said. "Everybody wants that feeling of getting that gold medal. And we can't rely on talent all the time to just bring us home."

The United States will head for Tokyo with back-to-back men's basketball wins after accounting for Spain 83-76 in their final exhibition game in Las Vegas prior to the Olympic Games.

Team USA have had a far-from-ideal Olympics preparation, defeated by Nigeria and Australia in exhibition games last week and losing Kevin Love to injury and Bradley Beal due to health and safety protocols.

Gregg Popovich's side bounced back by beating Argentina on Tuesday and finished off their Las Vegas camp against the Spanish on Sunday.

Damian Lillard top scored with 19 points with six assists for Team USA, while Kevin Durant had 14 points, two assists, two rebounds and two blocks.

Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine pulled off a series of dunks to put an exclamation mark on the performance.

Team USA are set to fly out for Tokyo on Monday, ahead of their Olympics opener against France on Sunday.

USA are grouped with France, Iran and the Czech Republic in men's basketball at the Tokyo Olympics where they are gold medal favourites.

In the women's USA defeated Nigeria 93-62 on Sunday to conclude their Olympic preparations, heading in as gold medal favourites too.

Star point guard Damian Lillard denied reports he will request a trade from the Portland Trail Blazers in an offseason of ceaseless speculation.

Speaking to reporters ahead of the Olympic Games as a member of Team USA, Lillard said he has yet to make a decision about his future despite rumours of an impending trade request emerging on Friday.

"I woke up to those reports, a lot of people reaching out to me," said Lillard. "But it's not true. I'll start off the rip and say it's not true.

"A lot of things are being said. It hasn't come from me. I haven't made any firm decision on what my future will be."

The comments from the six-time All-Star came hours after TrueHoop's Henry Abbott reported Lillard would be formally requesting a trade in the coming days.

Lillard also insisted he "expects to be" with Portland when the 2021-22 season tips off but reiterated that he does have some concerns about the Trail Blazers' title chances.

"I think if you look at our team as it is, I don't see how you say this is a championship team," Lillard added.

“My intention and my heart is set on being in a Trail Blazers uniform for my entire career. But over time … you want to win it all. And we have to make strides to do that.”

Portland has played in eight straight postseasons, including a run to the Western Conference finals in 2019 that ended in a sweep at the hands of the Golden State Warriors.

After first-round exits in the last two playoffs, Portland replaced long-time head coach Terry Stotts with Chauncey Billups, the first of perhaps many moves in a pivotal offseason for the Blazers.

Lillard is scheduled to meet with Billups and general manager Neil Olshey in Las Vegas before the Tokyo Olympics begin to discuss the future of the organisation.

Portland is 12-16 over the last three postseasons, despite Lillard averaging 28.3 points and 7.2 assists while shooting 39.6 percent from three-point range, leading many to believe it is time for him to seek a stronger supporting cast.

Lillard, who celebrated his 31st birthday on Thursday, is under contract for the next four seasons for $176.3 million.

"The best way to put it is be more urgent," Lillard said. "Be urgent about our next step and how we move forward. We've made the playoffs all these years. We're not a bad team, we're a good team.”

"It's a lot of positives. But we've reached that point where it's not enough.”

Damian Lillard believes changes need to be made by the Portland Trail Blazers if they are to end their now 44-year wait for an NBA title amid swirling speculation about his future.

A report on Friday suggested star point guard Lillard will request a trade from the Blazers having spent his entire NBA career in Portland.

He will reportedly address those claims during a media availability session for the United States' Olympic basketball team on Friday.

Lillard has been named an All-Star six times in his career and has helped the Blazers reach the playoffs in each of the past eight seasons.

It is his clutch shooting that has consistently kept Portland in the mix and, since he entered the league in 2012, only Stephen Curry (2,460) and James Harden (2,125) have made more three-pointers than Lillard's 2,051.

Portland reached the Western Conference Finals in 2019 but were swept by Curry and the Golden State Warriors.

However, this season's exit at the hands of the Denver Nuggets in six games was their fourth first-round elimination in five seasons and led to the Blazers parting ways with head coach Terry Stotts. Chauncey Billups is the man now tasked with leading them to a first NBA Finals since 1992 and a first championship since 1977.

Asked by Yahoo Sports if the Blazers have matched his commitment to the franchise, Lillard said: "To make it to the NBA, I had to give it everything I had.

"I was going to do what needed to be done to win games. I didn't come into the league worrying about what others were doing in the organisation. I didn't come in with that type of mentality.

"But I've been active in probably 95 per cent of the games in my career. I've played through injuries, and I've been a part of two rebuilds. I feel like I've experienced everything with the Trail Blazers, and I've worn that jersey as a badge of honour and with a lot of pride and care.

"I never felt like my job was to go in and critique what other people were doing in the organisation. My job was to make sure the team is functioning and trying to lead them to the best results. I've always assumed everybody’s mentality was the same.

"Even when I'm playing well and we come up short at the end of the season, I go home and the first thing I do is look in the mirror and tell myself we didn't win a championship. Or if I didn't play as well as I should have, I've had to look in the mirror and tell myself that my performance was unacceptable and I have to do better. And then you go do better.

 

"I think that's the stage we're at as a team where we all, not just me, not just my team-mates, not just our new coaching staff, the front office, everybody in this organisation must look in the mirror because we've constantly come up short.

"We have to look in the mirror and say I have to be better because whatever it is we're doing is not working and it's not giving us the shot to compete on the level that we want to compete on."

On why he feels this is a pivotal juncture in his career, Lillard added: "There are a few reasons: One being I'm not getting any younger. Our environment has always been great.

"We're not losing a lot, but we were eliminated by a shorthanded Denver team that I felt we should have beat. I just walked away from that really disappointed. I was like, 'Man, this just isn't going to work'.

"We're not winning the championship, but we've got a successful organisation. We're not a franchise that’s just out here losing every year and getting divided.

"We have positive seasons; we just don't end up with a championship. So I feel like at this point, I basically made the decision that if you do what you've always done, you'll always be where you've always been.

"Just like I hold myself accountable for a bad performance or hold myself accountable to make sure that I work my a** off when I’m training, I must be accountable for saying what needs to be said even if it's not popular. And that just comes with age.

"When I was younger, I felt like maybe I'll be out of place, but I feel like I've earned the right to say we must do better. We must do better if we want to win on that level."

The United States are always favourites at the Olympic Games – and rightly so. In 18 entries to the men's basketball event, Team USA have collected 18 medals, 15 of them gold.

But those three defeats serve as a warning for Gregg Popovich's side.

And any remaining complacency heading to Tokyo 2020 – in pursuit of a fourth straight title – should have been shifted by their initial pre-tournament exhibitions.

The United States lost to Nigeria last Saturday and then to Australia two days later, their third and fourth defeats in exhibitions since first fielding NBA players with the formation of the 'Dream Team' in 1992.

"It was better," as Popovich said, in Tuesday's win over Argentina – "bit by bit, every day, I hope," the coach added – but the pressure is still on, as consistent results must follow when the real action begins.

 

TOUGH START FOR TEAM USA SUPERSTARS

Of course, Team USA have never failed to advance from the preliminary round and that spotless record is highly unlikely to change this year. A kind draw has thrown up only one true test, but it comes first up: against France.

Indeed, Les Bleus dealt the United States their humiliating quarter-final exit at the FIBA Basketball World Cup two years ago.

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert – the three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year – put up a game-high 16 rebounds in that France victory and his size is a real problem for familiar opponents.

Gobert led the league with 2.7 blocks and 10.1 defensive rebounds per game in 2020-21, snaring 33.5 per cent of defensive boards while on the floor for the third-best mark in the NBA.

Bam Adebayo and Draymond Green might be versatile but, as the two preferred American options at the five, finding joy in the middle seems unlikely, while Team USA might also struggle to stop 7ft 1in Gobert on defense. His 67.5 per cent shooting was another benchmark.

However, the talent elsewhere in the Team USA lineup should ensure they have enough to win most matchups.

Kevin Durant shot 52.3 per cent from the midrange and 45.0 per cent from beyond the arc in the regular season; only two players made more threes than Damian Lillard (275), who then broke Klay Thompson's record with 12 makes from deep in a single playoff game against the Denver Nuggets.

The opener could either see Durant and Co lay down a marker for the rest of the tournament or provide other contenders with a blueprint for beating the United States.

 

BOOMERS BANG UP FOR MEDAL PURSUIT

Australia are far from the biggest team at the Games, but they have already shown the joy that can be found in the paint against Team USA, scoring 44 points from inside the key in their exhibition win.

The Boomers' effective, well-executed gameplan was all the more impressive given the unsettled nature of their team.

They have changed coach three times since the World Cup, and star name Ben Simmons is absent – working to "develop that skill package and improve in a couple of areas", Brian Goorjian said, after averaging an awful 9.9 points per game in the playoff series defeat to the Atlanta Hawks.

But Philadelphia 76ers team-mate Matisse Thybulle is still on hand to provide defensive energy, having led the NBA in steal percentage (3.9), while Patty Mills remains more reliable at international level than for Popovich's San Antonio Spurs.

Four times beaten in the bronze medal game, Australia will expect to finally secure some hardware, yet Group B also contains a dark horse in the form of Nigeria, who followed up their own victory against the United States by dominating Argentina.

Miami Heat guard Gabe Vincent had 21 points against the country of his birth, a total he has only once topped in his NBA career to date.

Nigeria have chemistry, talent and, in Golden State Warriors associate head coach Mike Brown, coaching experience. They have also played so far like they have a point to prove.

 

DONCIC DRAWN INTO GROUP OF DEATH

Second and third pool games against Iran and the Czech Republic respectively should see that there is no jeopardy for the United States early on, but Group C shows how tough this tournament can be.

There will be a rematch of the 2019 World Cup final between Spain and Argentina, while hosts Japan will hope to make some noise. Then there is Slovenia, led of course by Luka Doncic.

One of the most exciting young talents in the world, Doncic has already shown himself capable of dragging a team to against-the-odds victories single-handedly.

The 22-year-old, whose 36.0 per cent usage rate led the NBA this year, was unsurprisingly named the MVP at the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Kaunas just three weeks after forcing the Los Angeles Clippers to go to a Game 7 in the first round of the playoffs.

Doncic has averaged 33.5 points across his 13 career postseason games – all of which have come against the Clippers. No player in NBA history has played 13 playoff games or more and averaged more, with Michael Jordan second on 33.4.

But Doncic has lost both of those series to date and is now faced with some hugely experienced players at this level. Argentina's Luis Scola and Spain's Pau Gasol – who moved to Barcelona specifically to prepare for the Games – are both in their 40s.

Should Doncic guide his country into the knockout stage, though, Team USA would undoubtedly be wary of taking on the two-time All-NBA First Team selection.

Jason Kidd will not vie to fill the Portland Trail Blazers' head-coaching vacancy, withdrawing from consideration despite Damian Lillard's endorsement.

Portland are looking for a new coach after the Trail Blazers and Terry Stotts mutually agreed to part ways on Friday following the team's elimination in the opening round of the NBA playoffs.

All-Star Lillard backed Los Angeles Lakers assistant and Hall of Famer Kidd for the role, telling Yahoo Sports: "Jason Kidd is the guy I want".

But former Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks head coach Kidd will not be pursuing the job in Portland.

"Portland's a first-class organisation and will have great candidates for its head coaching job, but I've decided not to be one of them," the 48-year-old told ESPN.

"Whoever they choose will have big shoes to fill from Terry [Stotts]."

Los Angeles Clippers assistant Chauncey Billups, ex-New York Knicks and Houston Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy, Nets assistant Mike D'Antoni and Michigan's Juwan Howard are reportedly among the candidates.

Kidd led the Nets in 2013-14 – overseeing a 44-38 record as the franchise lost in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

The 10-time All-Star and 2010 NBA champion coached the Bucks between 2014 and 2018, reaching the playoffs twice but losing in the opening round on both occasions.

Portland Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard said Los Angeles Lakers assistant Jason Kidd "is the guy I want" to replace Terry Stotts as head coach.

The Trail Blazers and Stotts mutually agreed to part ways on Friday, following Portland's elimination in the opening round of the NBA playoffs.

Despite Lillard's heroic efforts, the Trail Blazers were ousted by the Denver Nuggets 4-2 in the Western Conference first round on Thursday.

Stotts – who oversaw eight consecutive postseason appearances – departs as the second-winningest coach in franchise history following a 402-318 record in nine seasons.

Los Angeles Clippers assistant Chauncey Billups, ex-New York Knicks and Houston Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy, Brooklyn Nets assistant Mike D'Antoni and Michigan's Juwan Howard are reportedly among the candidates.

But Lillard talked up Hall of Famer Kidd, who previously served as coach of the Nets and Milwaukee Bucks.

"Jason Kidd is the guy I want," Lillard, who set a new NBA record for threes made in a single playoff series with 35, told Yahoo Sports.

In a statement following Stotts' exit, Trail blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey said: "I have the utmost respect for Terry and what he has accomplished these past nine seasons.

"This was a difficult decision on both a personal and professional level but it's in the best interest of the franchise to move in another direction.

"Terry will always hold a special place in the Trail Blazer family and the Portland community. We relied on the integrity, professionalism and consistency he brought to the job every day and we wish he and Jan nothing but the best."

During the postseason matchup, Lillard tallied a playoff career-high 55 points and record 12 made threes in a Game 5 overtime defeat to the Nuggets.

Lillard also became the fourth player in NBA history to record a 50-point, 10-assist game in the postseason, joining Russell Westbrook, Sleepy Floyd and Jerry West.

Damian Lillard believes Nikola Jokic can lead the Denver Nuggets to NBA glory after they eliminated the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday.

Jokic scored 36 points, provided six assists and grabbed eight rebounds as the Nuggets secured a 126-115 victory in Game 6 to win the series 4-2.

Trail Blazers star Lillard thinks the Nuggets can go all the way with Jokic at his brilliant best.

Lillard said of the Serbia center: "He's everything for them. I think if it was any year a guy like him, what he does for that team, could lead his team to a championship, it would be this year because of how open it is.

"There's no favourite. In my eyes at least, I feel like anybody can get beat and anybody can go get it done.

"That's why it's even more disappointing for me because I felt like if there's any year you can shoulder the load and go get one, it was this one. I definitely think he's capable of it."

Nuggets coach Michael Malone also lavished praise on Jokic.

He said: "That's why he's the clear-cut MVP, because you can take anybody away from our team, if we have Nikola, you could put me, Wes Unseld, Ryan Bowen, Charles Klask, whoever you want out there, we're going to find a way to compete because that's how great he is."

Malone says the Nuggets are aiming high after advancing from the first round of the playoffs.

"I just told our team this, hell of a win to come in here and win a Game 6 on the road is great. But we're not satisfied," said Malone. 

"Our goal coming into the season was not to get out of the first round. We have much bigger goals."

Devin Booker put on a show as the Phoenix Suns eliminated LeBron James and NBA champions the Los Angeles Lakers from the playoffs en route to the Western Conference semi-finals.

The sun set on the Lakers' season and their title defence in the opening round after Booker's playoff career-high 47 points and 11 rebounds guided Phoenix to a 113-100 win in Game 6 on Thursday.

Booker's monster double-double – which included eight three-pointers – sealed a 4-2 series victory for the second-seeded Suns in the Western Conference as they moved through to the semi-finals.

Suns All-Star Booker became the first Phoenix player with a 40/10 playoff game since Amar'e Stoudemire in 2010, though he is the first to do it with five-plus threes.

The Lakers welcomed the Suns to Staples Center for the must-win showdown in Los Angeles, where star Anthony Davis had been cleared to return from a groin injury.

According to Stats Perform, the Lakers were 8-2 in home games when facing playoff elimination since 2000 but their hopes were dealt a blow when Davis' comeback lasted just five minutes.

The Suns – who were 8-1 in potential series-clinching games since 2000, with their only loss coming against the Clippers in Game 6 in 2006 – blew away the Lakers with a 36-14 opening quarter on the road.

Phoenix carried a 60-41 advantage into half-time and while James tried to spark a Lakers rally with 29 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and two blocks, it was not enough.

A four-time NBA champion and MVP, it is the first time James has been eliminated in the opening round of the postseason in his illustrious 15-year playoff career.

Next up for the Suns are the Denver Nuggets, who claimed their series 4-2 following a 126-115 victory against the Portland Trail Blazers.

MVP favourite Nikola Jokic fuelled the third-seeded Nuggets with 36 points in Portland, where Michael Porter Jr. had 22 of his 26 points in the opening quarter.

The Nuggets reached the Western Conference semis for the third consecutive season, while Damian Lillard put up 28 points and 13 assists for the Trail Blazers – who led by 14 points in the third quarter but could not hold on.

 

Clippers at Mavericks

Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks can secure a semi-final date with the top-ranked Utah Jazz in the Western Conference by beating the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday. The Mavericks lead the series 3-2.

Michael Malone described Damian Lillard's staggering record-breaking performance as "superhuman" in the Portland Trail Blazers' dramatic playoffs defeat to the Denver Nuggets.

The Nuggets took a 3-2 series lead at Ball Arena on Tuesday after edging a double-overtime thriller 147-140.

That was despite an incredible display from Lillard, who scored 55 points – including a playoffs-record 12 three-pointers – from only 24 shots.

Lillard's points haul was his best in the post-season and the third-highest in a defeat in playoff history behind Michael Jordan's 63 against the Boston Celtics in 1986 and Donovan Mitchell's 57 versus the Nuggets last year.

The point guard also provided 10 assists and Nuggets coach Malone saluted his exploits.

Malone said: "Damian Lillard was superhuman tonight."

Nikola Jokic led the way for the Nuggets with 38 points as they got their noses in front in the series.

The center was full of admiration for Lillard and warned the Nuggets must try and find a way to stop the six-time NBA All-Star from making such an impact.

Jokic said: "He was incredible. He made some top shots, he put his team on his back and he was just carrying in.

"We tried, but we need to be better just to take the ball off his hands, especially later in the game, but it was kind of a pleasure to be on the court to witness that."

The Phoenix Suns moved 3-2 ahead in their NBA first round playoffs series against the Los Angeles Lakers with a 115-85 victory but star guard Chris Paul went down after re-injuring his shoulder.

Devin Booker top scored for the Suns with 30 points, seven rebounds and five assists as the Suns move within one win of knocking out the reigning champions.

The Suns, however, will be sweating on Paul's fitness ahead of Game 6 after going down clutching his sore right shoulder, having played 23 minutes, with nine points and six assists.

Phoenix blew the game open with a remarkable 32-10 second quarter, opening up a 32-point half-time lead which the Lakers, who were without Anthony Davis, never threatened in the second half.

LeBron James top scored with 24 points including six three-pointers along with five rebounds and seven assists, while Andre Drummond had seven points and 13 rebounds.

The series returns to Los Angeles for Game 6, before the final match in Arizona if required.

 

Nugs win in double over-time, Nets progress

Nikola Jokic and Damian Lillard traded blows as the Denver Nuggets edged the Portland Trail Blazers 147-140 in a double over-time thriller.

Jokic finished with 38 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists, while Michael Porter Jr had 26 points, including a clutch late three-pointer along with 12 rebounds and three assists.

Lillard remarkably scored 55 points for the defeated Blazers, along with six rebounds and 10 assists, although he may regret passing to CJ McCollum with nine seconds left at 143-140 down. McCollum mis-controlled and stepped out of play, forcing the decisive turnover.

In a back-and-forth encounter, McCollum had earlier drained a three-pointer to send the game into over-time.

The Brooklyn Nets finished the job in their first round series against the Boston Celtics with James Harden starring in a 123-109 win which completed a 4-1 victory.

Harden produced a triple-double, scoring 34 points with 10 rebounds and 10 assists for the Nets.

Kyrie Irving added 25 points, while Kevin Durant contributed 24, including four three-pointers shooting at 66 per cent from beyond the arc.

The Nets will next face the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

 

Wayward Tatum's radar off

Jayson Tatum was a lone hand for the Celtics, managing 32 points, although he shot poorly, albeit regularly under intense heat, at 12-from-27 from the field and 36.4 per cent from beyond the arc.

 

History-making haul in losing cause

Lillard's 55 points came in a losing cause, making history as the third most in a defeat in NBA playoffs history behind Michael Jordan's 63 against the Celtics in 1986 and Donovan Mitchell's 57 against the Nuggets in 2020. He also had a record 12 threes.

 

Tuesday's results

Brooklyn Nets 123-109 Boston Celtics
Denver Nuggets 147-140 (OT) Portland Trail Blazers
Phoenix Suns 115-85 Los Angeles Lakers

 

Hawks at Knicks

The New York Knicks will look to stay alive as their first round playoffs series returns to Madison Square Garden against the Atlanta Hawks trailing 3-1.

Damian Lillard expects to see Aaron Gordon again in the remainder of their first-round playoff series after an improved defensive showing denied the Portland Trail Blazers superstar a postseason record.

Lillard had 34 points in Game 1 as the Blazers upset third seed the Denver Nuggets.

And the six-time All-Star was in sensational form to start Game 2 with 32 points by half-time, including eight three-pointers from 11 attempts.

That tied Vince Carter's mark for the most threes in a half in the playoffs and Lillard appeared certain to reach Klay Thompson's 2016 game record of 11 against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Lillard himself made 10 against the same team in 2019.

But the Nuggets switched Gordon onto Lillard and Portland's main man made only a single further shot from beyond the arc as he was limited to five attempts.

It meant Lillard, who led the league with 173 clutch points this season, had only 10 points in the second half and two in the fourth quarter – both from the free-throw line.

Asked about Gordon's defense after Denver levelled the series, Lillard said: "I expect it to continue. [I need to be] just moving around more off the ball, getting more off-ball sets.

"Usually bigger guys can use their length and athleticism on the ball, but when you start to move around on flares and pindowns and things like that, typically you can get a little bit of space."

The Blazers point guard was perhaps surprised the Nuggets did not start by getting Gordon out to him.

"It's just a bigger defender, taller guy, more athletic, just a big body," he said.

"But I'm used to that; usually throughout the regular season, whoever their defensive wing or taller wing is, that's who guards me.

"Like the Phoenix game, Mikal Bridges guarded me; Golden State, Kelly Oubre guards me. I'm always against a bigger wing.

"That's an adjustment they went to in the second half. But I think they just gave me more attention, more so than it was just one guy. I'm never going against one guy."

Even before that change, though, the Nuggets were 12 points up, and they ran out 128-109 winners after 38 points from leading MVP candidate Nikola Jokic.

Denver coach Michael Malone said: "That right there was a playoff game.

"The intensity, you had two high-level players in Damian Lillard and Nikola Jokic playing at their respective levels, the crowd was great.

"But it was chippy. And that's the way it should be. We're both fighting for something. That's the way the playoffs should be. I loved it. That's my kind of game right there."

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