The Los Angeles Lakers are set to take on the Portland Trail Blazers in what should be one of the more exciting first round series of the 2020 NBA Playoffs.
The Trail Blazers defeated the Memphis Grizzlies in the play-in tournament to seal the eight seed in the Western Conference, but they are far from the typical last team to make the playoffs.
Damian Lillard has been a man on a mission since the bubble games began, and enters the postseason as the hottest scorer in the league. His scoring explosions the past couple of weeks have prompted some to believe Portland could potentially upset Los Angeles, but the star point guard is not listening to that talk.
“I’ve seen everybody saying what we’re going to do to the Lakers, but the Lakers are the No. 1 seed in the West for a reason,” Lillard said.
“They’ve got the best player in the world on their team. But at the same time, we didn’t fight as hard as we fought in the bubble to just say, ‘Alright, we’re the eighth seed now let’s go out and get beat up on.’ We feel like we have a chance in a series against anybody in this league. We feel like we’ve got a chance in this series, and that’s how we’re going to approach it.
“We’re going to approach it with healthy level of respect for them from ourselves — not as far as what anybody else has to say or what other people think. We respect them for who they are, and we have enough belief in ourselves to go into it feeling like we can win a series. I think it’s that simple.”
The Trail Blazers do present a challenge for the Lakers as they have two guards in Lillard and CJ McCollum who can create their own shot and score in the half-court with ease. However, that does not scare players like Kyle Kuzma and Markieff Morris who actually are embracing playing them.
Frank Vogel leaning on team chemistry in bubble playoffs
The Lakers will unfortunately not get the usual benefits of being the No. 1 seed as home-court advantage is no longer a factor, and they will play the Blazers who are a formidable opponent.
It is hard to predict how the neutral playing site will affect a Los Angeles team that has admitted it feeds off of the crowd to fuel their play. However, the group is tight-knit and that bond is what makes Frank Vogel optimistic that the players will be ready for whatever comes their way.
“Our chemistry on our team is strong, so our guys have really enjoyed being around each other,” Vogel said.
“That hasn’t been an issue. I think with some teams if your chemistry isn’t as strong, too much time together can be a bad thing. A lot of guys have really come together even stronger than in the regular season. It’s been a lot of fun together, and I think it’s going to benefit us in the bubble situation.”
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