Back in May, when NBA was still mulling its options for 2019/20 season resume, Portland Trail Blazers’ All-Star Damian Lillard said he doesn’t intend to play if he doesn’t get a fair chance to make the playoffs. Lillard ended up getting one, and now he’s using it.
On Thursday night, Lillard led the Blazers to a 125-115 win against Denver Nuggets with a spectacular performance in which he scored 45 points, packed 11 threes, and dished 12 assists. With this win, Portland inched close to last playoff spot in the West, now trailing only half of a game behind Memphis Grizzlies on No.8.
“Y’all know that I’m always optimistic and always see the best in situations like this, and it’s why I said what I said a few months ago when I said, ‘If we don’t have a chance to compete for a playoff spot, I don’t want to play,'” said Lillard after the game. “Because I knew if we did have a chance to play for a playoff spot, it would look something like it looks right now.”
After making the Western Conference Finals last season, the Trail Blazers crumbled in 2019/20 and were out of the playoff picture when NBA suspended its activities due to coronavirus pandemic. However, it wasn’t all their fault as injuries, especially that of standout big man Jusuf Nurkic, played a significant part in Portland’s decline.
But, entering the Orlando bubble, the Blazers were healthy, and it shows so far. They are 3-1 since the restart and their only loss in a tightly contested game against Boston Celtics.
“I knew that once we got here, we’d be one of the teams that would take advantage of it, and so far we have,” Lillard added.
While Blazers’ job is far from over, with San Antonio Spurs, New Orleans Pelicans, and Phoenix Suns also being in the hunt for the postseason, they have a chance to determine their own destiny. And that’s exactly what Lillard wanted.