The Los Angeles Lakers were able to capture the top seed in the Western Conference, but there is no easy test for them in the first round.
LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Lakers drew the Portland Trail Blazers led by the unanimous MVP of the NBA restart, Damian Lillard. Over the past couple of years Lillard has proven himself to be one of the league’s best players, but at times the accolades haven’t matched his performance.
In the Orlando bubble, however, Lillard has been the best player, putting up unbelievable numbers while carrying the Blazers into the playoffs. What he has done may have come as a bit of a surprise to some, but not to James.
In an NBA on TNT interview with Chris Haynes, LeBron spoke about Lillard’s performance, explaining that players are certainly well aware of his talents:
“Dame is doing what Dame does. No surprise to me at all. He’s one of the most underappreciated, underrated players we have in our game. But from a players’ perspective, he has everyone’s respect in our league.”
Lillard averaged a league-high 37.6 points in the seeding games, including a 61-point performance that saw him join Wilt Chamberlain as the only players with three 60-point nights in one season.
There have been times where Lillard has seemed to be snubbed in terms of All-Star or All-NBA selections, but there is no doubt anymore that he stands among the league’s elite.
James knows that the Lakers will have their hands full in trying to contain Lillard in this first round series. He is exactly the kind of guard the Lakers have struggled with in the past and they don’t have their best perimeter defender in Avery Bradley.
Lillard was largely contained in Game 1 but did knock down timely 3-pointers late to shift the momentum for the Trail Blazers.
LeBron James Believes 2020 Playoff Run Will Be Toughest
The Lakers began their first playoff run in seven seasons and with James leading the way, expectations are high. James has been through numerous runs to the NBA Finals, but despite his experience, he sees this year’s as his toughest.
“Probably the toughest one. This is the toughest championship run for me personally,” James said. “From the circumstances of just being in here.”
Being inside this bubble in Orlando is a difficult situation for anyone, and James is trying to adjust to this new normal.
“I’m not home, I’m not with my family, I’m not in my own bed, I’m not in our practice facility, I’m not preparing to be at Staples with our fans,” he added. “I’m not with a lot of things that’s essential to my everyday regimen. That’s what’s different. As far as mentally, that’s always going to be sharp.”
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