Damian Lillard: Blazers 'Starting to Trend' in Direction of Team We Want to Be

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistAugust 7, 2020

Portland Trail Blazers' Damian Lillard handles the ball against Houston Rockets' James Harden, left, during the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kevin C. Cox/Pool Photo via AP)
Kevin C. Cox/Associated Press

The Portland Trail Blazers have reeled off three wins in four games since the NBA's restart, putting them within 0.5 games of the No. 8 seed in the West.  

After a frustrating regular season, Damian Lillard is starting to see the team he expected to at the beginning of the year. 

"I don't view us as a team that went to the Western Conference Finals, because you are who you've shown to be during the season," Lillard told reporters after Thursday's 125-115 win over the Denver Nuggets. "We've been unhealthy, that's true, but we still have a lot of good players, and we haven't played to the level that we need to. But I think now, we're starting to trend in the direction to the kind of basketball team that we want to be."

The Blazers have received a major boost from the return of Jusuf Nurkic, who missed the entire regular season before the break due to injury, and Gary Trent Jr., who has been one of the best knockdown shooters of the bubble. Lillard knocked down 11 threes in Portland's win over Denver and has at least 29 points in three of the four games.

Should the Blazers overtake Memphis, they will be in a strong position for a first-round matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers. The No. 8 and 9 seed in the Western Conference will be part of a play-in for the final playoff spot. The No. 9 seed needs to defeat the No. 8 seed twice in order to advance to the playoffs, whereas No. 8 must win only one of two potential games.

"In this situation, we're just getting an opportunity and taking advantage of it," Lillard said.

The Blazers' second half of their seeding games will be more difficult. They start with a back-to-back against the Los Angeles Clippers and Philadelphia 76ers before closing out with the Dallas Mavericks and Brooklyn Nets