Lakers' LeBron James Says Blazers 'Not Your Typical 8th Seed' Ahead of SeriesAugust 17, 2020
The Portland Trail Blazers might be the lowest of eighth playoff seeds in the Western Conference, but Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James won't take them lightly in the opening round of the 2020 NBA playoffs.
James told reporters how Portland has a "two-headed monster" with star guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum while praising the contributions of Carmelo Anthony and Jusuf Nurkic. He added the Blazers are "not your typical eighth seed."
Focusing solely on Lillard would do a disservice to the supporting cast.
McCollum continues to be a dynamic secondary scoring option, having averaged 22.2 points during the regular season. Anthony has silenced his skeptics by averaging 15.4 points and shooting 38.5 percent from beyond the arc. Nurkic posted four double-doubles during Portland's eight seeding games and the play-in tournament against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Lillard is the single biggest reason the Blazers climbed into a postseason place, though. The five-time All-Star is averaging 37.6 points since the restart. He had single-game scoring marks of 45, 51, 61 and 42 points during an eight-day stretch.
As James noted, injuries were a big reason Portland wound up at the bottom of the playoff standings. Nurkic didn't make his season debut until July. Lillard missed a stretch of games at the end of February and into March. Rodney Hood and Zach Collins have been limited to 32 combined appearances.
Whereas the Blazers appear to be peaking at the right time, the Lakers were 3-5 heading into the playoffs. Los Angeles is also without the services of Avery Bradley, while a date for Rajon Rondo's return from a fractured right thumb is unclear.
The Lakers should still dispatch of the Blazers because it's not wise to bet against James in a first-round series. But Los Angeles might have to work harder than it would have liked at such an early stage of the postseason.